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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
An end to the mystery of God's Banker?
By Chris Summers
BBC News Online

Italian banker, Roberto Calvi
Roberto Calvi was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London
Twenty-two years after the body of God's Banker, Roberto Calvi, was found hanged under London's Blackfriars Bridge, his death remains a compelling mystery. But with four people facing a murder trial in Italy, his son is hoping for an answer at last.

The death of your father is always going to be traumatic.

But for Carlo Calvi the tragedy has been made worse by political intrigue, shady business practices and tales of mafia connections.

An original inquest into the death of Roberto Calvi, who was found on the morning of 18 June 1982, returned a verdict of suicide.

But his death is now widely believed to be one of the most shocking murders in Italian history, and four people are set to go on trial, charged with his murder.

His son Carlo told BBC News Online: "Like most victims' families I want something good to come out of this."

'Smoke and mirrors'

At the time of his death, Roberto Calvi was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, one of Italy's biggest banks with close ties to the Vatican, earning him the nickname 'God's Banker'.

Key dates
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
Mar 2004: Four defendants appear at pre-trial hearing in Rome

The bank was in crisis following Calvi's conviction for currency violations.

He fled Italy pending an appeal and was smuggled out - via Austria - with a briefcase containing crucial documents about Ambrosiano's activities.

Two months after his death the bank collapsed, brought down by debts of 800m from a number of mysterious shell companies.

Calvi's death took place at a time when much of Italian politics and business was conducted through "smoke and mirrors", with nothing quite what it appeared.

So it is perhaps no surprise that Carlo Calvi is not an ordinary victim's relative. He wants more than just justice.

Mafia boss

Carlo, a short intense man with the same high forehead as his father, left Italy in 1977 to live in Montreal, Canada, but still speaks with a strong Milanese accent.

Carlo Calvi
Carlo Calvi is hopeful the trial in Rome will shed more light on what happened

The 50-year-old says: "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. I am someone who wants people to learn something from the judicial process."

Among the four people waiting to hear whether they will face trial for Calvi's murder is mafia boss Pippo Calo.

He is already serving two life sentences and has been following proceedings by video link from his island jail.

The other defendants are Flavio Carboni, a Sardinian businessman who has admitted travelling to London with Calvi, his Austrian girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig and a Rome underworld figure, Ernesto Diotallevi.

A judge will make a final decision on a trial this summer.

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
Carlo Calvi

Several mafia supergrasses (pentiti) have testified about the mafia's involvement and two will be key prosecution witnesses.

Detectives are also looking again at the September 1982 murder of Sergio Vaccari, an antiques dealer whose business was a cover for a thriving trade in drugs and pornography.

He was stabbed to death at his home in Holland Park, west London. It is thought he may have played a part in Calvi's death and was killed to silence him.

Masonic symbols

Several questions remain to be answered: how was Calvi murdered, who carried it out and what were their motives?

Calvi's body was exhumed in 1998, providing clues which strengthened the case for murder.

Carlo Calvi believes his father, who had been living in Chelsea, was surprised by his attackers, strangled and taken a short distance by boat to the bridge, where he was hanged from scaffolding beneath it.

Bricks were stuffed in his pockets along with around 8,000 in cash.

Antonino Giuffre
Antonino Giuffre was once the number two in La Cosa Nostra
There has been much speculation that the posing of the body and the use of Blackfriars Bridge were masonic symbols.

Carlo says: "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.

"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."

Time for truth?

Roberto Calvi has been accused of many things since his death, ranging from obsessive secrecy to ripping off a mafia money laundering operation.

Carlo, himself a banker, is naturally defensive when discussing his father. He believes he was a pawn in others' schemes: "He was a dynamic businessman but not a good judge of people."

He says: "The current position of the Rome prosecutors is that there were three motives for the murder of my father: money laundering, knowledge of the mafia's role and [the danger he would start] blackmailing politicians."

But is Carlo any nearer to finding out the truth about his father's death - and will a trial provide closure?

He believes a "window of opportunity" has opened and hopes the Italian prosecutors will make the most of it.

"I'm hoping that more of the truth will come out but I don't believe we are nearing the end. None of Italy's mysteries of the 1960s and 1970s have been solved so why should our case be any different?"

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