Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mafia ordered "God's banker" murder: Italy court

The mafia was probably behind the infamous 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging from a London bridge and was known as "God's banker" because of his Vatican links, an Italian court said on Wednesday.

Calvi, the head of the collapsed Banco Ambrosiano, was found dangling from a noose with $15,000 in his pockets and weighed down with bricks under Blackfriars Bridge in central London in what prosecutors argued was a 'suicide' staged by his killers.

A Rome court acquitted two Italian mobsters, a bodyguard, a financier and his girlfriend in June of carrying out the killing.

It did not release the reasons for the acquittal until Wednesday, when it cited a lack of evidence against the accused.

More interestingly, the court appeared to support, at least in part, the prosecution's argument that Calvi was a victim of a Mafia revenge killing.

It speculated that a likely scenario was that Calvi had lost Cosa Nostra money he was meant to launder, and mobsters wanted to cover their tracks.

"It's more credible that the killing of Roberto Calvi was decided as a punishment and to prevent him from revealing his relations with people who acted as a link to the criminal organization," the court wrote.

Prosecutors had presented forensic evidence that Calvi was strangled and his suicide staged in a manner suggesting Mafia or Masonic ritual.

The court agreed that Calvi's murder seemed to fit the profile of a mob killing.

"Similar operations can be considered compatible with the mentality of mafiosi and have similar precedents in the criminal history of the Cosa Nostra," it said.

The court acquitted Mafia "treasurer" Pippo Calo, serving life for another murder; Sardinian financier Flavio Carboni; Rome crime boss Ernesto Diotallevi; and Calvi's bodyguard Silvano Vittor.

Carboni's Austrian girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig was cleared of all suspicion, as the prosecution had requested.

In its explanation, the court said prosecutors had relied on circumstantial evidence from witnesses who were now dead, some of them killed.

Calvi's death cast a long shadow over the Vatican, which was implicated financially in the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano.

The Vatican Bank owned a small part of Ambrosiano and was found partly responsible for the $1.3 billion in bad debts left by Ambrosiano's failure.

Calvi was appealing against a four-year sentence when he secretly flew to London in 1982 with a case of papers.

The private detective hired by Calvi's son, Jeff Katz, said in June he believed Calvi was lured onto a boat on the Thames by the promise of meeting shadowy financiers who could help him save Ambrosiano, when he was murdered and his suicide staged.

The motive, Katz believes, was that Calvi had threatened to squeal on his powerful clients if they let him go to jail.
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