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Calvi murder linked to missing $70m

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Calvi murder linked to missing $70m

By Peter Popham in Rome

18 February 2004

A portion of the huge treasure which the man known as God's banker, Roberto Calvi, was desperately trying to trace when he was murdered has been found in banks in the Bahamas.

Amounting to $70m (37m), the money has been in limbo since June 1982 when Calvi was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London. His Banco Ambrosiano had gone bust some months before owing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Vatican, Sicilian Mafia gangs and many others. Declared by the original coroner's inquest to be suicide, Calvi's death is now believed to have been murder and four suspects are expected to go on trial in Italy.

The new development in the joint Anglo-Italian investigation into the Calvi affair was leaked to Rome's La Repubblica newspaper yesterday. According to Luca Tescaroli and Anna Maria Monteleone, the Roman prosecutors leading the Italian side of the investigation, a sum of about $70m has been unearthed in several bank accounts in the Bahamas, funds which it is believed that Calvi was trying desperately to recover at the time of his death.

When Calvi's corpse was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, his coat pockets were packed with bricks but there were no traces of brick dust on his hands. His death came shortly after the bank, which had close ties with the Mafia, the Vatican and a powerful Italian Masonic lodge counting many top politicians among its members, collapsed with debts of 800m.

City of London Police have said the murder was being "actively investigated" using forensic techniques not available at the time of his death.

Calvi died after being implicated in Italy's biggest post-war banking scandal. His death was initially recorded by a British coroner as suicide. However, following protests from his family a second inquest took place recording an open verdict.

The breakthrough persuading police to reopen the Calvi case came last year, when a panel of forensic scientists commissioned by a Rome tribunal concluded that he was killed. It has since been claimed that he was murdered by the Mafia as punishment for failing to look after their money, as well as to shut his mouth permanently.

The Italian investigators believe the funds located in the Bahamas are part of the money Calvi was desperately trying to recover in order to stave off disaster. They think it could be part of the proceeds of a huge laundering operation undertaken by Calvi on behalf of Colombia's Medellin drug lords.

The investigators claim that tens of millions of dollars left Colombia and passed through various banks in the US before showing up in the branch of the Banco Ambrosiano in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. This was where the investigators of Italy's Direzione Investigativa Antimafia and a cell of the Milan office of the Guardia di Finanza, the tax police, recently succeeded in identifying the funds.

The exact provenance and intended eventual destination of the $70m that has been located is not yet fully understood.

The new development in the investigation was made possible by an investigation carried out some years ago by the FBI, the investigators say. By following a paper trail of drug money from the Medellin cartel, which led through banks in Italy and in other countries, investigators succeeded in finding $70m transferred to the Banco Ambrosiano branch in Florida.

It is claimed that Calvi created a network of contactsin south America, with politicians, bankers, and traffickers who trusted his ability to launder money gained from the cocaine traffic of the Colombian mafia.

Sources who were close to him maintain that he knew everything about the intricate financial manoeuvres in high places in Italy, including the Institute for Religious Works, the private bank of the Vatican.

A witness who testified to the Italian investigators recently maintained that "during the time that Calvi was in detention - from May to July 1981 - and again immediately after his release, many were actively trying to remove him from Italy, because he was a danger to everybody." He was the man who knew too much.

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