Francesco de Martino, who had recently been replaced as party secretary by Bettino Craxi, was a strong candidate for president of Italy. After the kidnapping he dropped out of the race and his political career ended.
Sixteen years on, Mr de Martino, now 86 and a life senator, has spoken for the first time about the kidnapping. What he says gives a chilling glimpse into the intrigue and crime woven into Italian politics.
The ransom, thought to have been collected among friends and well-wishers, was paid by the Socialist Party, he told the Corriere della Sera. Part of it was probably raised by the Banco Ambrosiano, run by Roberto Calvi, who was found dead in 1982, hanging from Blackfriars Bridge. Calvi, whose death remains a mystery, was linked to the Mafia, Masonic subversion, the Vatican and the Socialists. Mr de Martino noted the numbers of the banknotes before passing them to the kidnappers. He later learned that the money had come from the ransoms from earlier kidnappings.
And the motive? 'It had to do with the fear that I would stand for president of the republic.' The Communists were advancing electorally and some people might have feared a Socialist president would be too well disposed towards them.
'The kidnapping was a means of intimidating me.' He did not say precisely whom he suspected.