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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
'God's Banker' death still a mystery
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Five people have been acquitted of involvement in the murder of "God's Banker", Roberto Calvi, who was found hanged under London's Blackfriars Bridge in 1982. The verdict will come as a huge blow to the Calvi family who have campaigned for years to get justice.

Key dates
Italian banker, Roberto Calvi
1971: Calvi becomes chairman of Banco Ambrosiano
1981: Convicted of currency violations, but bailed pending appeal
11 Jun 1982:Leaves Italy, on a false passport, with a suitcase full of documents
18 Jun 1982: Body found beneath Blackfriars Bridge
Jul 1982: Suicide verdict at first inquest
Jul 1983: Open verdict at second inquest
1998: Calvi's body exhumed
Oct 2002: Forensic report confirms Calvi was murdered
Oct 2005: Five defendants go on trial in Rome
Jun 2007:Five people are acquitted of murder

The Roberto Calvi story reads like the pages of a John Grisham thriller. It is a dark tale of Mafiosi, Masonic lodges, Cold War plots and a sinister Vatican archbishop.

The verdict is the latest bizarre twist in a case that has rumbled on for 25 years.

The body of Roberto Calvi was discovered hanging from Blackfriars Bridge on the morning of 18 June 1982.

An initial investigation into Calvi's death led to an inquest in London recording a verdict of suicide.

Calvi's wife Clara - who died last year - and his son Carlo refused to accept the suicide verdict and always insisted he had been murdered.

Calvi, who was 62, was chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano, Italy's largest private bank at the time. The bank collapsed shortly after his death with debts of 800m, most of which were blamed on a series of offshore companies.

Flavio Carboni (left) and Pippo Calo
Flavio Carboni (left) and Pippo Calo were both cleared

The bank had handled much of the Vatican's financial affairs and Calvi worked closely with Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (Institute of Religious Works).

Archbishop Marcinkus was indicted in 1982 by an Italian court in connection with the collapse of the bank but he claimed diplomatic immunity and eventually retired to Arizona, where he died last year.

The true purpose of the offshore companies blamed for the bank's collapse remains shrouded in mystery.

Some have suggested they were used to launder Mafia money but they may also have been used to funnel money into anti-communist regimes in central America and the Solidarity movement in Poland, which the Vatican supported.

Crucial documents

Calvi had been convicted of currency violations shortly before his death and jailed for four years. But he jumped bail and fled to London.

He is believed to have been carrying a briefcase containing crucial documents about the bank's activities.

His exact movements in the week before his death are still vague but it is thought Calvi stayed in an apartment owned by a friend, Sardinian businessman Flavio Carboni, in Chelsea.

Marcinkus and late Pope
Archbishop Marcinkus, pictured with Pope John Paul II

On the night of his death he was strangled and then his body was taken by boat to Blackfriars Bridge, where it was hanged from a scaffold in a faked suicide.

It was only after Calvi was exhumed from the family cemetery in Milan in 1998 that it became clear he could not have killed himself.

A fresh investigation was launched, with the help of City of London Police, and charges were eventually brought against five people, including Mafia boss Pippo Calo, who is already serving two life sentences.

On Wednesday Calo was acquitted of any involvement in the Calvi case. Also cleared were Mr Carboni, his former mistress Manuela Kleinzig, Ernesto Diotallevi, form Rome, and Silvano Vittor, from Trieste.

Carlo Calvi, who now lives in Canada, was in court to hear the verdict.

He spoke before the trial about his hopes for justice.

Carlo Calvi
I have no personal grudge against the killers. I have no personal need for anyone to be convicted or sent to jai
Carlo Calvi

He told the BBC News website: "I have no personal grudge against the killers. I have no personal need for anyone to be convicted or sent to jail.

"It would be good if they confessed, but I am not someone who has that goal of having someone punished for the crime."

Calvi had been a member of the secretive Propaganda Due (P2) Masonic lodge, which had connections with both the Mafia and right-wing terrorist groups.

P2's founder, Licio Gelli, was jailed for fraud in connection with the Banco Ambrosiano collapse but has never been charged in connection with the Calvi murder. He is now 88.

There has been speculation that the posing of the body and the use of Blackfriars Bridge were Masonic symbols.


Calvi's son told the BBC in 2004: "I don't subscribe to that theory. But I do believe there was a Masonic element to his death and I do believe the way he was killed was symbolic.

The exhumation of the body
Calvi's body was exhumed in 1998 from the family plot in Drezzo, near Milan
"I believe the killers were sending a message by killing him in public in the heart of the city. There was definitely something theatrical about it all, and the message was clearly worth the risk."

The trial heard from several Mafia supergrasses (pentiti) about the Mafia's involvement in Calvi's murder but the defence claimed throughout that he had committed suicide after all.

The prosecutor, Luca Tescaroli, claimed Calvi was murdered because he had embezzled Mafia money, which was being laundered through Banco Ambrosiano, and was planning to blackmail several other people, including prominent politicians.

But the not guilty verdict means that the banker's death will go down in history as an enigmatic mystery.

A City of London Police spokeswoman said: "We have worked closely with the Italian authorities since 2003 to bring this case to a successful conclusion. It's disappointing for Roberto Calvi's family in particular that those responsible for tis murder have still not faced justice."

Five acquitted over Calvi death
06 Jun 07 |  Europe

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