UNSOLVED CRIMES: THE POPE´S BANKER
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Early on the morning of 18 June 1982, the body of a man was seen winging from scaffolding below Blackfriars in London. When police cut down the corpse, they found his pockets bulging with other 7000 sterling pounds in banknotes and several large stones.
In their efforts to discover his identity, the London authorities conctacted police in Rome and back came the answer: You´ve got our banker. The banker in question was Roberto Calvi, chairman of the influential Banco Ambrosiano, which had many years enjoyed such a close relationship with the Vatican that Calvi was nicknamed the Pope´s banker.
Calvi was in deep trouble when he had fled, six days earlier, from his apartment in Rome. Had been found guilty of illegal currency dealing and sentenced to four years in gaol. For some times there had been grave suspicions about the working of the Ambrosiano bank and Calvi knew only too well that any detailed investigation would reveal the enormous financial labyrinth of fraud that he had built up.
In the week after his disappearance, Ambrosiano began its beadlong tumble into bankruptcy. Four years Calvi had been passing shares between mysterious Panamanian and Liechtenstein companies at vastly inflated prices and raising huge loans on those fictitious prices. Hundreds of thousands of dollars had disappeared, the companies turned out to exist only in name and their ownership was traced back to the Vatican bank.
The disgrace and ruin that awaited Calvi seemed to provide a sound motive for suicide; there was no hard evidence of foul play and no marks of violence on the body. When the inquest was held five weeks later the jury returned a verdict of suicide.
The Calvi family, who had been in touch with the banker while he was in hiding with his bodyguard in a London flat, was outraged. They staged an all-out campaign to show that his death was not suicide but murder. The family found it impossible to believe that a stout, 62 year old man who suffered from vertigo would choose a method of suicide which involved climbing over a parapet and across scaffolding, all the time weighed down by pockets full of stones, when he had enough barbiturates in his lodging to do their job quietly and painlessly. In interviews before he left Rome, Calvi had hinted at fears for his safety. He had told his family that he would reveal all at the appeal hearing, which was to have taken place for days after his death. Calvi´s wife, Clara, suspected that factions in the Vatican, engaged in their own internal power struggle and incensed by Ambrosiano´s involvement in international politics through is financial dealings, were behind the murder. Calvi claimed to have channelled $ 50 million to solidarity movement in Poland, and some may have felt this was a threat to the carefully cultivated relationship between the Vatican and the communist world. Anyway There were plenty of reasons to suspect foul play in Calvi’s death. On a purely physical level it seemed improbable that Calvi could have climbed from Blackfriars bridge onto the scaffolding from which his corpse was found hanging – a later forensic examination would reveal that no traces of paintwork, rust or significantly brick, limestone or basalt under Calvi’s fingertips, traces that should have been there had he climbed onto scaffolding, and handled brickwork. And that brings us on to the bricks – Calvi’s body was found with bricks in his jacket pockets, and bizarrely in his crotch area (inserted through the fly). That the bricks had been picked up by Calvi and used to weigh his body down seems implausible to almost all apart from the original coroner’s inquest.
Calvi was himself a Mason, a member of the infamous P2 Lodge – a lodge linked to attempted coups, terrorist attacks, and partially succesful attempts to subvert Italian democracy. Calvi also had alleged links to the Mafia. Masonry, the Mafia, and the Vatican bank – if one were to write it as a novel it would be deemed unrealistic. It goes without saying that the pope´s banker murder will never be solved.