Pope Francis: his life is in danger from 'ndrangheta, warns anti-mafia judge

Crackdown on financial corruption in Vatican has angered brutal crime syndicate, says Nicola Gratteri

Rome

Pope Francis's life is in danger from 'ndrangheta, Italy's most feared crime group, a leading anti-mafia judge has claimed.

Nicola Gratteri, a magistrate in the southern city of Reggio Calabria, near 'ndrangheta's heartland, has said the Pontiff's crackdown on financial corruption in the Vatican, has angered bosses in the brutal crime syndicate, which is thought to rule Europe's cocaine trade.

"I don't know if organised crime is in the position to do something, but it's certainly thinking about it. It could be dangerous," he said.

He said Francis was "on the right path" in attempting to clean out the stables at the Holy City, which has seen its administrative body and its bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IoR), mired in scandal for decades.

But Mr Gratteri, who has written a book on the Church's links to 'ndrangheta, said the mob "that has until now profited from the power and riches derived directly from the church is nervous, agitated.

"Pope Bergoglio is dismantling centres of economic power in the Vatican. If the bosses can stop him they won't hesitate," he told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper.

The Vatican spokesman was not available to comment.

Rumours have swirled around the Vatican's financial activities since the collapse in 1982 of the Banco Ambrosiano, in which it was a major shareholder. The Vatican paid around £150m to compensate Ambrosiano's account holders - without admitting any wrongdoing.

But events became much murkier when Banco Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi, known as God's Banker, was found hanging from Blackfriar's Bridge in London, his clothing stuffed with bricks and around £10,000 in his pockets. Many investigators believe Mr Calvi was killed for making off with mafia money.

Accusations of money-aundering activities have continued to be made against the IoR.

Last month it emerged that as part of Francis's efforts to crack down on graft, the IoR has been highlighted with news that the troubled institution is seeking to close 900 suspicious accounts.

According to Corriere della Sera newspaper, four of the suspect accounts are linked to the Vatican embassies of Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Earlier this year a judicial report said the bank was money laundering hot spot.

Meanwhile, it emerged today that a luxury hotel property bought from the church has been sequestered by investigators, who suspect it is being run by the 'ndrangheta.

The Special DIA anti-mafia police, on the orders of another judge from Reggio Calabria, have sequestrated Rome's luxury Grand Hotel Gianicolo, a favourite of the rich and famous, as part of the huge seizure of €150m worth of money and properties linked to the crime syndicate.

According to investigators, the hotel's owners, the Mariani family, are key 'ndrangheta financial figures. They bought the property, then a monastery from the church, with the equivalent of about €5m in the 1990s. Federico Cafiero de Raho, the Reggio Calabria magistrate, said the money probably came from criminal activity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing