“If the whole thing comes out it will be enough to start World War III”
The body of Roberto Calvi, the 62-year-old chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano, who had gone missing from his London home the day before, was spotted hanging from scaffolding under Blackfriars Bridge on 18 June 1982. In his pockets were stones, a forged passport and a £15,000 in sterling, Swiss francs and Italian lire. The inquest on 23 July returned a suicide verdict. The Home Office pathologist Professor Keith Simpson testified that Calvi had not been drugged or manhandled before death.
Calvi was known as “God’s banker” because the Vatican was the fourth largest shareholder in the Banco Ambrosiano. In the late 1970s Calvi began lending money to foreign companies that existed only on paper and were, in fact, owned by Calvi, who then proceeded to buy shares in Banco Ambrosiano thus gaining a shareholding in the bank bought with the bank’s own money. Michele Sindona, a Sicilian entrepreneur, met Calvi and used his web of international bank branches to funnel his own less than honestly acquired money.
Two more men became involved in Calvi’s web — Bishop Paul Marcinkus, the head of the Vatican Bank and Pope John Paul II’s bodyguard, and Licio Gelli, the head of the Masonic lodge P2. Marcinkus had written promissory notes guaranteeing some of the fake companies set up by Calvi and Gelli had invited Calvi into P2, thus guaranteeing his loyalty. When Gelli’s premises were raided on 17 March 1981, police found a membership list for P2, which contained the names of 962 public figures, including magistrates, police chiefs, cabinet members and Roberto Calvi.
On 6 May 1981 Calvi was arrested. Found guilty of various frauds, on 20 July he was sentenced to a four-year prison term and fined 16 billion lire. He was freed on bail and spent the next 11 months trying to cover his tracks. On 31 May 1982 the Bank of Italy wrote to Calvi and his fellow directors, demanding a complete account of all the Banco Ambrosiano’s foreign lending. On 10 June 1982 Calvi fled to Britain on a forged passport and moved into a serviced apartment in Chelsea Cloisters, Sloane Avenue in London. He said, “If the whole thing comes out it will be enough to start World War III.” On 17 June 1982 Calvi disappeared from his home.
Blackfriars Bridge, London, England
7.30am Friday 18 June 1982
A second hearing in July 1983 changed the suicide verdict to an open one. In July 1991 a Mafia informer claimed that Calvi had been murdered when the Cosa Nostra lost money in Banco Ambrosiano’s collapse. In December 1998 Calvi’s body was exhumed and an independent forensic report stated that he had been murdered, an opinion shared by the Calvi family.
In September 2003 the City of London Police Force reopened the case. On 5 October 2005 five men, including Calvi’s ex-bodyguard and chauffeur, went on trial in Rome, accused of his murder. All were acquitted on 6 June 2007.