Son of ‘God’s banker’ Roberto Calvi talks 30 years after father’s death
Carlo Calvi, 58, has spent £15million conducting his own investigation
By Claudia Joseph
It was a very public death.
In the grey light of dawn, the body of a man was found hanging from scaffolding underneath Blackfriars Bridge in Central London, his feet dangling in the water.
He was wearing an expensive Italian suit and his pockets were weighted with bricks and stuffed with cash.
Initially police believed that Italian financier Roberto Calvi, known as ‘God’s banker’ because of his close financial ties with the Vatican, had committed suicide.
But the dead man’s son, Carlo Calvi, commissioned an independent forensic report, which concluded in October 2002 that he had been murdered.
In 2005, Italian prosecutors brought murder charges against five suspects but all were acquitted after the subsequent trial in Rome.
Now, 30 years after his father was found dead, Carlo remains convinced that he was murdered and wants police to reopen the case.
Carlo believes that up to a dozen men from the Italian underworld were involved in the murder – and claims many are still at large in London.
‘A long time has passed since my father’s murder on June 18, 1982,’ he said. ‘It is not unrealistic to believe that there are individuals involved in his death still alive. I want the City of London Police to pursue these individuals and put them where they belong. It is a matter of public interest. These people are still operating in London. We should all know who they are and what they are doing.’
Carlo, aged 58 and himself a former banker, has dedicated his life to seeking justice for his father, who was the chairman of Italy’s second-largest bank, Banco Ambrosiano. The bank subsequently collapsed with debts of half a billion pounds amid dark rumours of laundered Mafia drug money, a link with the clandestine ‘P2’ Masonic lodge and secret political slush funds.
Now living in Montreal, Canada, Carlo spends his time travelling between his home and London, New York and Milan – sifting through evidence, meeting secretive contacts willing to talk about Italian organised crime and poring over the transcripts of Mafia trials.
His obsession with finding the men involved in his father’s murder has come at a price – both financial and personal. He has spent £15 million on fees for lawyers, private detectives and other experts in an attempt to identify the guilty.
And his marriage to Marie Josee, mother of his two sons, Roberto, 18, and Nicola, 16, broke up in 2000. He has also not seen his sister Anna, 55, a lecturer at Warwick University, since their mother’s death from Parkinson’s disease in 2006.
‘There’s no doubt I have fixated on the case,’ he said. ‘I’m sure that played a part in my divorce and it has affected my relationship with my sister. She doesn’t necessarily agree with the things I have done.’
Carlo was a 28-year-old post-graduate student at Washington’s Georgetown University when he recieved the telephone call that would change his life. His mother Clara, then 60, and sister Anna, 25, were staying with him in Washington, having been warned by his father that their lives were in danger.
‘My mother had been living with me in America for about six weeks because my father feared for her safety,’ he recalled. ‘My sister arrived the day before he died. We were awoken by the telephone in the middle of the night when my uncle Luciano, my mother’s brother, called from Bologna to say that he had heard the news on the radio.
‘He spoke to my mother who had a complete breakdown. She was devastated. We had to call a doctor. I remember telling my uncle that he could have been more careful with his words. I think he was a little too direct.’
Within hours the family had been escorted by American police to a secret apartment in the Watergate complex, famous for the break-in that brought about the fall of President Richard Nixon. They spent the next few weeks under police guard before returning to Carlo’s home.
‘My mother never recovered from my father’s death,’ said Carlo. ‘She and my father had always dreamed of living near Lake Como. They were very close and she remained very attached to her dreams.
‘The following year, she suffered the first symptoms of Parkinson’s. I don’t think she got it as a direct result of my father’s murder – but surely it doesn’t help if you have lived through such a shock?’
Carlo’s quest for the truth began a month after his father’s death when a London inquest recorded a verdict of suicide. It was hardly a likely explanation. Six days before his death, Calvi had shaved off his moustache and skipped bail in Italy pending an appeal against a four-year suspended prison sentence for illegally transferring £18 million out of the country.
Fearing for his life, the 62-year-old banker chartered a private plane and fled to Britain on a false passport with Sardinian business tycoon Silvano Vittor, a long-term associate who assumed the role of bodyguard. He was taken to a safe house in Chelsea Cloisters, West London – believed to have been organised by another Sardinian businessman, Flavio Carboni.
Calvi had already written to Pope John Paul II warning him of the imminent collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, saying that it would ‘provoke a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in which the Church will suffer the gravest damage’.
Calvi also had close links to the Mafia, the Neapolitan Camorra – a Mafia-like criminal organisation based in Naples – and the Masonic lodge P2. The latter was described by Calvi’s former Banco Ambrosiano mentor, Sicilian Michele Sindona, as a ‘state within a state’ because of its powerful members, including former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Carlo refused to accept the 1982 inquest’s suicide verdict. He hired one of Britain’s best-known barristers, George Carman QC, to represent the family at a second hearing, which recorded an open verdict. Still not satisfied, he demanded that his father’s body was exhumed.
Carlo then commissioned the independent forensic report, which concluded in October 2002 that his father had been murdered as the injuries to his neck were inconsistent with hanging, there was no trace of rust and paint on his shoes from the scaffolding and he had not touched the bricks in his pockets.
In 2005, Vittor and Carboni were accused of killing Calvi. But the duo and three others – Mafia financier Pippo Calò, businessman Ernesto Diotallevi and Carboni’s girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig – were acquitted 20 months later.
Another name linked to Calvi’s murder was Mafia ‘supergrass’ Francesco Di Carlo, known as ‘Frankie the Strangler’.
According to Di Carlo, the killers were Vincenzo Casillo and Sergio Vaccari of the Naples Camorra.
‘Calvi was naming names,’ said Di Carlo. ‘No one had any trust in him any more. He owed a lot of money. His friends had all distanced themselves. Everyone wanted to get rid of him. I was in Rome and received a phone call from a friend in Sicily telling me that a certain high- ranking Mafia member had just been killed.
‘I will never forget the date because of this: it was June 16, 1982 – two days before Calvi was murdered. The friend told me that Pippo Calò was trying to get hold of me because he needed me to do something for him,’ Di Carlo claims.
‘When I finally spoke to Pippo, he told me not to worry, that the problem had been taken care of.
‘That’s a code we use in the Cosa Nostra. We never talk about killing someone. We say they have been taken care of.’
Carlo Calvi believes that the supergrass is telling the truth. He agrees with Di Carlo that his father’s killers were Casillo – the second-in-command of the Camorra, who was murdered by a car bomb in Rome in 1983 – and his sidekick Vaccari, who was stabbed to death three months after Calvi’s murder.
Vaccari was also a former tenant of Calvi’s last known home, the rented flat at Chelsea Cloisters.
Carlo points out that both his father and Casillo had business cards belonging to Alvaro Giardili, a Camorra associate, in their possession when they died.
‘I’m not suggesting Alvaro Giardili was involved, but he definitely connects to some of the individuals involved in the case,’ Carlo said. ‘When my father died, he had Giardili’s business card in his wallet.
‘One of the first people to ring us when we returned to the house after my father died was Giardili. In general, I consider Di Carlo a reliable witness. But I am more interested in what he has to say about the social network of the Italian underground in London during the Eighties.’
It is that underground movement that Carlo is now hoping will be exposed – even if his own safety is jeopardised.
Calling for a third inquest, he said: ‘The police have already admitted it was murder but I would like to see the case reviewed in open court and the remaining defendants in their jurisdiction pursued.
‘When I lived in Italy I had bodyguards but now I have to rely on my own judgment and instinct.
‘There have been instances when I have been concerned for my safety but I try not to be confrontational and protect myself.
‘If the worst happens, I am not the only person who has this information. I will not rest until I find out the truth about my father’s death.’