Mafia 'murdered banker over bungled deal'

ROBERTO Calvi, whose body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, was murdered by the Mafia after he bungled a money-laundering operation, a court heard yesterday.

The man nicknamed "God's Banker" because of his ties with the Vatican was found with banknotes and bricks stuffed in his pockets. Initially, his death was recorded as suicide, but his family campaigned for a new inquiry and eventually five people were charged with his murder and are now on trial in Rome.

There have always been suspicions that Mr Calvi was murdered by the Mafia in connection with a drugs money-laundering operation, and that appears to have been confirmed in court.

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Francesco Marino Mannoia, a Mafia supergrass and key prosecution witness, described the events surrounding Mr Calvi's death via a video link from the United States, where he is in the witness protection programme. "I heard from two people on two different occasions that the death of Roberto Calvi was not suicide but murder," he said.

"I remember I was on the run and hiding in a villa in the countryside when a news report came on the television about Calvi's suicide in London. With me at the time was Ignazio Pullara [a Mafia member], who told me in a very excited manner that he knew Calvi had been murdered.

"Then a while later, when I was in jail in Trapani [in Sicily], I spoke with Ignazio's brother Giovambattista, who also told me that Calvi had been murdered by the Mafia.

"When I asked why, he said it was because Calvi had been given a huge sum of money to get rid of but had failed, and he was also no longer considered a reliable and trustworthy person by Cosa Nostra [the Sicilian Mafia]."

Mr Mannoia went on: "[Calvi] had been given drugs money and money made from contraband cigarette sales and he should have laundered it via his bank, the Banco Ambrosiano."

Mr Calvi created Banco Ambrosiano and turned it into Italy's biggest private bank, but it was on the verge of collapse with debts of 460 million when he died. Much of the money was made up of loans which it had provided to dummy companies in Latin America. It was Italy's biggest post-war banking scandal, and one that implicated the Vatican, which provided letters of credit for the loans.

In the aftermath of Mr Calvi's death, the Vatican's bank, which had a stake in Banco Ambrosiano, agreed to pay more than 86 million to its creditors but denied any wrongdoing.

The court, sitting in a specially fortified bunker at Rome's Rebibbia jail, heard that Flavio Carboni, one of the five on trial, was tied up in the money-laundering deal with the Mafia. Mr Mannoia said: "I heard that Flavio Carboni was also involved in the money- laundering operation, but I am not sure if he was directly involved in the murder."

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However, Luigi Giuliano, another mobster turned supergrass, told the court Carboni had played a part in the killing. "When Calvi died, the talk was that it was suicide, but I heard he had been killed by the Mafia and that it had been organised by Flavio Carboni and Pippo Calo [another defendant]," he said.

The five charged with murder are Giuseppe "Pippo" Calo, a convicted Sicilian mobster; Ernesto Diotallevi and Flavio Carboni, both businessmen; Manuela Kleinszig, Carboni's former girlfriend; and Silvano Vittor, Mr Calvi's former bodyguard.

Later this year, City of London police officers are expected to give evidence at the trial, which began in October and is expected to last two years.