Four may face trial as inquiry implicates Mafia over 1982 murder of 'God's banker'

Four suspects for the murder of Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London 21 years ago, could soon face trial, his son said yesterday.

"I think in the next few months there will be a trial against the four individuals who have been named," Carlo Calvi said. He added he was "very pleased" prosecutors in Rome had concluded that his father had been murdered.

Roberto Calvi - nicknamed God's banker because of his links with the Vatican - fled to London in June 1982 after the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, the bank of which he was president, with debts of US$1.3bn (£806m). Days later he was found dead, hanging from scaffolding with bricks in his pockets and stuffed down his trousers, and $15,000 in cash.

Thus began a mystery that implicated Italy's most feared crime gangs, the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra, as well as the powerful "P2" Masonic lodge, known for years as Italy's shadow government, and the Institute for Religious Works, the Vatican's bank. It was said that the bank grew rich by enabling the Mob to launder huge sums through its branches abroad.

Last year, a controversial film about Calvi's death which showed him to have been murdered was forced off the screens after one of the four men named this week by prosecutors, the businessman Flavio Carboni, claimed that it damaged his reputation.

The first inquest into Calvi's death, carried out in the UK, concluded that he had committed suicide. But Calvi's family, including his widow and Carlo, also a banker, both now living in Canada, were convinced he had been murdered.

A second inquest in London returned an open verdict. Then, five years ago, prosecutors in Rome agreed to set up an independent inquiry to look in to every aspect of Calvi's death and the events surrounding it.

The inquiry got an unexpected boost when embalmed remains of the dead banker were found in Milan's Institute of Forensic Medicine, having been missing for 20 years.

The inquiry was headed by a German pathologist, and his team included a forensic anthropologist and a toxicologist. Last October they concluded that Calvi had probably been murdered and later strung up under the bridge to make it look like suicide.

The inquiry said the wounds on Calvi's neck were compatible with strangulation and that there was no evidence to suggest he had put the bricks in his clothing himself. Most damningly, they concluded it would have been impossible for him to have reached unaided the place on the scaffolding from which he was found dangling. Then in December, a Mafia supergrass called Antonio Giuffre told police that Calvi had been murdered because Mafia bosses were angry at the way he had mishandled their money. He said that Pippo Calo, a convicted Mafioso, was the man who organised the crime.

Now Rome's prosecutors have endorsed those conclusions. They have sent notices to the four suspects, giving them 20 days to reply to the accusations or face formal charges. The four are Calo, who is serving several life sentences in prison; Flavio Carboni, the businessman who escorted Calvi to London; Ernesto Diotavelli, a leading figure in Rome's underworld; and Manuela Kleinszig, an Austrian citizen and, at the time, a girlfriend of Mr Carboni's.

The prosecutors have adduced three motives for Calvi's murder. First, the Mafia decided to punish him for mismanaging their money. Second, to shut his mouth permanently to prevent his exhaustive knowledge of the laundering of Mafia funds from reaching the public domain. And third, as a way to silencepoliticians, civil servants, members of the P2 masonic lodge and senior figures in the Institute for Religious Works with knowledge of Mafia money laundering.

In reaching these conclusions, the inquiry studied the flow of funds through foreign branches of Banco Ambrosiano - in Panama, the Bahamas, Peru, Nicaragua and other countries - amounting to $1.3bn.

After the news of the prosecutors' conclusions broke, a former member of the P2 masonic lodge, Licio Gelli, said: "For me the event is already closed. Only God can tell the truth about it." But the family of Roberto Calvi retain their faith in human justice. In addition to a trial in Italy, they hope for a new inquest in the UK, because, Carlo Calvi said, "we would like to have the same results in the two jurisdictions".

THE SUSPECTS

The four named by the prosecutors have long been linked to Calvi's death. Known as "the Mafia's cashier", Pippo Calo, a Mafia boss serving life terms in jail, had an interest in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in laundered Mob money when Banco Ambrosiano went bust in 1982. Two years ago, Calo became the first Sicilian mobster publicly to acknowledge the existence of the Mafia.

Flavio Carboni was a wealthy businessman with Mafia connections and a former member of the P2 masonic lodge, who accompanied Calvi to London when the bank went bust. Last year he forced a film about the Calvi scandal, God's Bankers, off the screens. He had to deposit £1m with a court to compensate the film's producers if he was ever found guilty of Calvi's death. The others are Ernesto Diotavelli, a senior figure in Rome's criminal underworld and long-term friend of Mr Carboni; and Manuela Kleinszig, an Austrian described by Carlo Calvi as "one of Carboni's girlfriends at the time [of Roberto Calvi's death]". The prosecutors have a list of six other people who may be indicted, but have kept the names secret.

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