Four accused of "God's banker" death may face life

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian prosecutor is seeking life prison terms for a Mafia mobster and three other men for the 1982 murder in London of Roberto Calvi, known as “God’s banker” because of his ties to the Vatican.

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Calvi, head of the collapsed Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from a noose under Blackfriars Bridge in 1982, with bricks and 15,000 dollars in cash stuffed in his pockets.

His death was first ruled a suicide. The case was reopened in 2003 as a murder inquiry, with four chief suspects, after new forensic evidence from Italian experts and British police concluded Calvi was strangled and his suicide was staged.

The prosecution says the Mafia killed Calvi for stealing money he was supposed to launder. He also stole money from Licio Gelli, former head of the secret Masonic lodge P2 which had links to the business and political elite in Italy, it says.

Prosecutor Luca Tescaroli began his conclusions on Wednesday by saying Calvi was killed “to punish him for taking large quantities of money from criminal organisations and especially the Mafia organisation known as the ‘Cosa Nostra’,” court sources said.

He wants life sentences for convicted Mafioso Pippo Calo, once known as the Mafia’s “Treasurer”; Sardinian financier Flavio Carboni; alleged Rome crime boss Ernesto Diotallevi; and Calvi’s bodyguard Silvano Vittor. All of them deny involvement.

Carboni’s defence lawyer Renato Borzone said the prosecutor had pre-announced the sentence he would request “to disguise the lack of evidence in a case that for 25 years has repeated things already shown and proven dozens of times”.

Carboni’s former girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig, an Austrian, would be acquitted, the prosecutor said.

Calvi’s death in such mysterious circumstances cast a long shadow over the Vatican, which was implicated financially in the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano shortly before Calvi’s death. At the time it was Italy’s largest private banking failure.

The Vatican Bank owned a small part of Banco Ambrosiano and magistrates said it bore some responsibility for the 1.3 billion dollars in bad debts left by its collapse. The Vatican denied any wrongdoing and said it had been deceived by Calvi.

The new evidence included tests showing Calvi had never touched the bricks in his pockets and had neck injuries suggesting he had been killed before being hanged.

Calvi was appealing against a four-year sentence for the Ambrosiano collapse when he secretly headed to London in 1982 with a case full of documents. His bodyguard Vittor says he left London before Calvi’s death.