A complex web of international fraud & intrigue
This murder remains one of the most high-profile unsolved cases in the UK
Roberto Calvi was found hanged underneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, England some 38 years ago on June 18th 1982. He had travelled by private jet plane to the UK and stayed very quietly in a flat in Chelsea.
Calvi was the chairman of The Banco Ambrosiano in Milan, which collapsed with debts of one billion pounds in 1981. At the time of the collapse, which caused a massive political scandal it was revealed that the bank’s biggest shareholder was The Vatican.
As a result of the collapse and the ensuing scandal, many people believed in the first instance that Roberto Calvi’s death was suicide but it appears not. His son Carlo has spent millions of pounds over the years trying to find out exactly what happened to his father.
A team of private investigators led by Jeffrey Katz, now say that they believe that he was actually jointly murdered by the Mafia and am an illegal group of freemasons before he could make a meeting with a Venezuelan banker, who had promised Calvi millions of pounds in loans. Whether that is true or not I cannot be sure but the one very poignant factor in that is that Robert needed money and lots of it.
Calvi had been convicted of fraud and money laundering in 1981 after a report published by The Central bank of Italy in 1978 showed that Italy’s second-largest privately owned bank, Banco Ambrosiano had transferred twenty-seven million dollars out of the country illegally, A massive criminal investigation took place which culminated in Roberto Calvi being arrested and held in prison on remand pending a trial.
He was eventually granted bail after at least one suicide attempt and somehow kept his position at the bank. Calvi was eventually given a four-year suspended sentence with a fine of twenty million dollars.
Members of Roberto Calvi’s family were adamant that he had not been willingly responsible for the financial crimes and if he had committed the offences at all then he did so under duress and pressure from others. They mostly believed that he was totally innocent and had simply been made a scapegoat for the crimes.
In 1982 Calvi wrote a personal letter to His Holiness Pope John Paul the second just two weeks prior to the ultimate collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, in which he advised The Pope that the collapse of the bank would have an extreme impact on the church and would be something of a financial holocaust for many. His involvement with the Vatican and the banking of the church was the reason for Calvi’s nickname, “God’s banker”.
The letter went on to heavily imply that officials in the bank and the Vatican were fully aware of what was really happening. As a result, the Vatican agreed to pay off one hundred and twenty of the Ambrosiano creditors to the tune of some two hundred and twenty-five million dollars. Due to lack of any official evidence of the Vatican bank’s involvement, it was granted immunity.
Calvi vanished from his apartment in Rome on June 10th 1982 and had arrived in England on June 15th after an unexplained stop off in Venice, where he shaved off his moustache to avoid recognition, he went to an apartment in Chelsea, London. It is thought that he travelled on a false passport, as there was no record of his arrival in England.
One week after he had vanished from Rome, officials at The Bank of Italy removed him from his position of power and his private secretary Graziella Corrocher, aged 55 threw herself from her fifth-floor office window as a final act of suicide. She had written a note condemning Calvi’s actions and the harm he had caused to the bank and many of its staff.
On the evening of 17th June 1982, Calvi left the Chelsea apartment to dine out for supper, after which he decided to take a stroll along the north bank of the River Thames, what actually happened after that has been a hot topic in many circles ever since.
Robert Calvi’s lifeless body was discovered very early on June 18th hanging from scaffolding underneath Blackfriars bridge. The police did not really carry out an investigation as it was quite fairly assumed that the banker had simply committed suicide. He had approximately fifteen thousand dollars in three different currencies (Italian Lira, British Sterling and Swiss Francs) in his pockets and some seven bricks were found fixed inside his clothing. He had an expensive Phillipe Patek wristwatch on and a passport in his pocket in the name Gian Roberto Calvino.
The police soon discovered who the dead man was and having become aware of his imprisonment and pending appearance in the Italian courts in order to appeal his convictions and that he had been listed to stand trial in July 1982 to answer charges of alleged fraud involving major property deals with Michele Sindona a Sicilian banker, who was already serving twenty-five years in an American prison in connection with the collapse of The Franklin National Bank in New York in 1974, hence they thought suicide was most likely. Interestingly Sindona was murdered soon after Calvi’s death.
The body was examined by Professor Frederick Keith Simpson one of England’s leading pathologists and he said that he found no river water in Calvi’s lungs and confirmed the cause of death to be asphyxia caused by hanging. His neck had not suffered the kind of injury that would have occurred during free-fall and thus it was deemed that Roberto would not have dropped more than two feet before the river water broke his fall.
According to Professor Simpson, there was no medical evidence to suggest foul play such as marks of restraint, no puncture marks of any kind, so no indication of the injection of any drug and no traces of unusual chemicals or drugs in the contents of his blood or stomach, other than the residue of a sleeping pill that had been taken the previous night.
There were some very interesting non-medical clues to the investigation, the watch had determined the approximate time of death as it had stopped at 01.52 am and whilst it would be normally accepted that a watch could stop for another reason other than water absorption, the factors of watermarks on the watch face when taken with the dropping tide level of the river that night, determined that the latest time that the body could have been suspended beneath the bridge was 02.30 am as after that time the water at Blackfriars Bridge would not have been high enough to reach Calvi’s wrist, calculated by the length of rope that Calvi had been hanging from.
It was also established that Calvi could not have hanged himself before 01.00 am, as the river level would have then passed his mouth and as previously stated there was no river water in the body at all.
A fairly lengthy inquest held on 23rd July 1982 determined that it was death by suicide, which it almost certainly was not. One of the possible reasons for this outcome may have been that the whole coroner’s court, including the jury members, were very tired.
The inquest began at 10.00 am and the evidence was given over a period of nine hours and twenty minutes, with a total time for breaks of one hour, fifty-five minutes. The evidence finished being given at 7.20 pm and the summing up took from 7.50 pm until 8.20pm then the jury retired. By 9pm they could not reach a unanimous verdict and an instruction was given to try to reach a majority verdict instead and at 10pm a majority verdict of ‘death by suicide’ was reached.
On 29th March 1983 the then Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane, sitting with Mr Justice Taylor and Mr Justice McCowen quashed the verdict and in July 1983 a second coroner’s court recorded a verdict an “open verdict”.
Now there have been quite some considerable pressures from Italian prosecutors for it to be believed that mafia gangsters, Flavio Carboni, Pippo Calo and Ernesto Diotallevi were responsible for the murder of Roberto Calvi.
The basis for these allegations is based on statements made by a so-named collaborator with Italian Justice and convicted killer, Francesco Di Carlo. He has served sentences in at least two UK prisons, Brixton and Parkhurst, he was then transferred under the prisons repatriation scheme to Italy where he began to collaborate with Italian magistrates in order to secure his early release from custody.
Each year more and more names are put forward in connection with the murder of Roberto Calvi, but it seems from inside information that none of them is truly relevant.
According to recent sources that seem to be “in the know” it appears that the killing had nothing to do with the mafia, The Vatican or even organised crime, those sources believe that all of the names put forward were done as somewhat of a blind to deflect the truth away from who really murdered Calvi, but I am not so sure.
Okay so, Calvi’s family were not happy with the verdicts of the courts and having got the original “death by suicide” overturned they hired private investigator Jeff Katz and his team of to look deeply into the case, that’s where things get interesting.
Katz had Calvi’s body and the things that he was wearing thoroughly examined and determined that as there were building bricks inside the clothing if Calvi had put the bricks in place there would have been brick residue under his fingernails and on his hands, there was no trace at all, which of course indicates that someone else put them there.
There were some injuries to Calvi’s neck but not consistent with hanging himself and interestingly his shoes had no trace at all of the rust, paint or scratching from the crisscrossed scaffolding that was underneath the bridge and in fact that he was actually suspended from. Bearing in mind the bridge had been in the process of being repainted at the time and therefore there would have been a lot of mess on the scaffold and the underneath of the bridge.
Katz also established that according to tidal measurements it would have been perfectly possible for a boat to get under the bridge, a person to tie a rope to the scaffolding and drop Calvi’s feet over the side of the boat to make it appear like a hanging suicide.
I have to agree with Katz in his findings that it would have been extremely difficult for a sixty-two-year-old man, who was not in the best of health to clamber around beneath a bridge, on scaffolding, in the dark, then to fix a rope and hang himself and bear in mind that in doing all of this he was not seen by anyone. I agree the boat activities were not necessarily witnessed either but I am sure that a man clambering around on slippery scaffold would have drawn a great deal more attention than a boat navigating the river.
A scientist working with Jeff Katz even went so far as to put bricks inside his clothing and move around in a very similar way to that which Calvi would have done, he recorded quite a considerable chaffing to his skin from the bricks, there was no chaffing at all on Calvi’s body that could have been caused by the bricks.
In 2002, a new investigation recorded that the verdict for the death of Roberto Calvi was most likely murder and things picked up the pace a little and The Metropolitan Police re-opened the case in 2003 as a murder enquiry and several new factors came to light.
Now, it has since been reported that before Calvi left Italy he had acted as if he were in fear for his life and this I believe to be connected to the fact that a large portion of the Banco Ambrosiano clients were the Mafia and they used the bank to operate their money laundering scams and Calvi was party to the crimes, whether by actively being involved or by at least allowing it to happen unabated.
It is more than likely that Roberto Calvi had some deep “inside knowledge” of some powerful Italian politicians, the people of the Vatican and their corrupt dealings. Either way, he was a man who “knew far too much” and once he escaped to England it was too much of a risk to allow him to slip away.
It has also been claimed that Calvi was responsible for embezzling the Mafia of some fifty million dollars, but that story is uncorroborated thus far. it does seem perfectly possible that despite using a fake passport, Calvi’s movements may well have been tracked and that he was soon located in London.
It is worth noting that Calvi has also been confirmed as having been a member of the illegal P2 Masonic Lodge and was an active freemason. Now interestingly the members of that group call themselves “Frati Neri” which translated to English simply reads “Black Friars”, so is it not a bit too over coincidental that the bridge where Calvi was murdered was Blackfriars Bridge, or am I being a bit too overzealous?
Finally in 2003 prosecutors were able to identify the links between the Mafia, P2 and the Vatican, they were all major customers of the Banco Ambrosiano and all lost out big time when the bank collapsed. Calvi had managed, directed and laundered a huge amount of money belonging to these organisations and their leaders probably worked together to “silence” Roberto Calvi after the bank collapsed.
In 2005 a total of five people stood trial accused of the murder of Roberto Calvi, they were Francesco Di Carlo, his ex-girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig, Ernesto Diotallevi (an Italian businessman), Mafia boss Giuseppe Calo, and Silvano Vittor (Calvi’s one-time bodyguard). As expected all five were acquitted due to “lack of evidence” and no one has ever been convicted of the murder of Roberto Calbi to this day.
I will leave it there and will be back with the story of a suspected serial killer in the North-west of England, so I will see you all very soon. Please leave comments if you wish and if you’d like to get in touch then I am always delighted to hear from you.