“… a former Masonic lodge known as Propaganda Due, or P2, a lodge originally formed by the Italian Grand Orient as a lodge of research. In 1975 an Italian fascist named Licio Gelli was made the Venerable Grand Master of P2 …”
“Then, in 1977, [Michele] Sindona brought in Roberto Calvi, head of the Banco Ambrosiano in Milan, which was closely associated with the papal bank, one of its major shareholders.”
“After Calvi was in with Gelli and Sindona, the Banco Ambrosiano helped to set up foreign shell companies, including ten in Panama, which were controlled by the papal bank.”
(Robinson, John J. Born In Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. New York: M. Evans and Company, 1989, pg. 314)
Banco Ambrosiano was an Italian bank which collapsed in 1982. At the centre of the bank’s failure was its chairman, Roberto Calvi and his membership in the illegal masonic lodge Propaganda Due. Vatican Bank was Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder, and the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 is rumoured to be linked to the Ambrosiano scandal, giving one of the subplots of The Godfather Part III. Vatican Bank was also accused of funneling covert United States funds to Solidarity and the Contras through Banco Ambrosiano.
PROPAGANDA DUE, or P2 MASONIC LODGE:
Propaganda Due, or P2, was a Masonic lodge operating under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of Italy from 1945 to 1976 (when its charter was withdrawn), and a pseudo-Masonic or “black” or “covert” lodge operating illegally (in contravention of Italian constitutional laws banning secret lodges, and membership of government officials in secret membership organizations) from 1976 to 1981. During the years that the lodge was headed by Licio Gelli, P2 was implicated in numerous Italian crimes and mysteries, including the nationwide bribe scandal Tangentopoli, the collapse of the Vatican-affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, and the murders of journalist Mino Pecorelli and banker Roberto Calvi.
Roberto Calvi (13 April 1920 17 June 1982) was an Italian banker dubbed “God’s Banker” by the press due to his close association with the Vatican. A native of Milan, Calvi was the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano which collapsed in one of modern Italy’s biggest political scandals, and his death in London in June 1982 has been the source of enduring controversy. Calvi’s death was ruled as murder after two coroner’s inquests and an independent investigation, and, in June 2007, five people were acquitted of his murder after a trial in Rome.
Claims have been made that Calvi’s death involved the Vatican Bank (Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder), the Mafia (which may have used Banco Ambrosiano for money laundering), and the Propaganda Due or P2 masonic lodge.
Licio Gelli (born April 21, 1919) is an Italian financier, chiefly known for his role in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. He was revealed in 1981 as being the Venerable Master of the clandestine Masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2).
The murdered man’s 37-year-old son had just two questions: ‘Tell me what you can do and how much will it cost?’ It was the autumn of 1991 and New York investigator Jeff Katz had flown to the US city to meet the dead man’s son, Carlo Calvi. It turned out that Katz could do quite a lot.
Roberto Calvi, known as God’s banker because of his close ties to the Vatican, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge, central London, with a length of orange rope woven into a lover’s knot around his neck. He was weighed down by bricks and found with £15,000 in cash in his pockets.
Calvi’s death, in June 1982, was the moment the Italian underworld went overground in London. ‘If you’re going to take this case on it’ll be like dancing in the mouth of wolves,’ a secret service agent told Katz in Rome.
Katz was bitten. ‘It was a fascinating case,’ he said in London last week. ‘It involved the mafia, the Vatican, P2 [a powerful masonic group]. It had 90 per cent of my time for two years so I was really stuck into it.’ The painstaking work, carried out by the New York investigator and 30 others in the early 1990s, is now leading tantalisingly closer to the arrest of key figures in Britain and the recovery of tens of millions of pounds in what was one of the 20th century’s most intriguing murders and financial scandals. The affair saw Italy’s biggest private bank collapse with debts of $1.4 billion in 1982.
The City of London police working on the case today describe a mosaic of vicious mafia dons, and assets traced all over the world.
But it seems there are plenty of people who still do not want the secrets which supposedly died with Calvi 21 years ago to come to light. The Italian detective leading the investigation, Luca Tescaroli, recently received a hand-delivered letter containing black powder and two 12-volt batteries with a note saying: ‘This is an ultimatum. Stop.’
But it is too late now. Evidence has come to light which is leading the investigation to four UK suspects who helped bring about Calvi’s downfall. Three months after Calvi’s death, a small-time drug dealer, Sergio Vaccari, was stabbed in the face, neck and chest more than 15 times. At the time the City of London police saw no link with Calvi. But Vaccari had possession of masonic papers. And Katz tracked down Vaccari’s former landlord, who, he learned, had demanded that his tenant left his flat. Vaccari agreed on condition that the landlord found him another home. The landlord presented two options, one of which Vaccari picked. A while later Vaccari wanted details from the landlord of the other place; that flat was in Chelsea Cloisters, the place Calvi stayed in just before he died.
‘From there we began to make other linkages between Vaccari and the Calvi entourage,’ said Katz.
The new City of London investigation, led by Detective Superintendent Trevor Smith, drew on a detailed reconstruction of the last hours of Calvi’s life. The reconstruction, devised by Katz and a forensic expert, Angela Gallop, established conclusively that Calvi was murdered. The scaffolding that Calvi was hung from, was assembled again, and a man of Calvis’s height and weight climbed along it. Pressure from such weight would have left rust on Calvi’s shoes, but forensic research found no rust stuck to his footwear.
It was decided that Calvi could not have committed suicide, as was first suggested by the City of London police after an investigation that lasted no more than a week. It has long been suggested that it was a masonic influence that led the City police to issue this conclusion, a claim denied by the police.
For Carlo it was not just a case of proving that his father was murdered. A suicide verdict would have meant that the son could not have got access to the $10m life insurance payout. A second inquest produced an open verdict, which still did not satisfy the insurers. When subsequent forensic work did satisfy them that Calvi had not died by his own hand, his bank’s creditors – owed $1.4bn – were waiting. Touche Ross, the liquidator, took a significant slice.
Calvi was a haunted man as he entered his final days. As chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, he was in charge of an organisation that laundered money made largely from the heroin trade for the mafia. He knew the dark financial secrets of the Vatican. Letters of comfort to offshore companies which he created were signed by Archbishop Marcinkus, a Chicago-born prelate and key Vatican insider who has never faced an interview or charges.
But more ominously Calvi had intimate knowledge of regular payments made by large Italian companies to political parties. He should have known: the payments went through his bank.
Calvi was on the point of going to prison for violating exchange controls. It was Michele Sindona, once Calvi’s mentor, who ratted on him. Calvi had one chance to avert humiliation. Tell the world what he knew. It was this which led to his death, Katz believes.
‘There was a point at which he threatened that if the Vatican and other people who he had been working with did not get him off the hook for the four years in jail for currency exchange violations, he was going to talk,’ Katz argues. ‘It would have landed the heads of all the major corporations in jail and it would have ended up probably with the indictment of political leaders.’
No mafia killing in London could happen unless it were ordered by Francesco di Carlo. He was one of the first of the Cosa Nostra to realise the need to ‘clean’ criminal profits through the financial system. Now serving 25 years for heroin trafficking, in 1967 he had met Queen Elizabeth in Italy.
For many years it was assumed that the Calvi mystery would fade into the mists of time. But the City of London police have now established a link between di Carlo and Sergio Vaccari. And the mists are clearing.
It was one of the biggest and most intriguing financial scandals of the last century.
Weeks after Roberto Calvi’s murder in June 1982, the Italian bank he chaired, Banco Ambrosiano, went under with a then staggering $1.4 billion debt.
Mafia, Freemasons and the Vatican are implicated in a tale of drug trafficking, money laundering and tortuous financing spanning the world.
Many believe the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, just 33 days after his election, happened because he wanted to break the murky links between what was then Italy’s largest private bank and the Vatican.
The scandal touched financial institutions around the world and the Italian political elite.
Calvi’s bank built its empire in close association with the Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works. This was headed by Archbishop Paul Marcinkus from Chicago. While the Vatican never accepted culpability in the collapse of Ambrosiano, it stumped up $250m to creditors. Some believe Marcinkus may yet face trial now a court case in Italy is progressing.
One of the most influential figures in the Calvi story was Licio Gelli, now 84. He was Grand Master of the P2 masonic lodge of which Silvio Berlusconi was once a member. Gelli was sentenced to 12 years for fraud in connection with the collapse of Calvi’s bank and is under house arrest.
Calvi’s mentor Michele Sindona was friends with former US President Richard Nixon. Sindona died in prison in 1986 poisoned by coffee laced with cyanide.
Licio Gelli, financier – obituary
Grandmaster of Italy’s notorious P2 masonic lodge who was implicated in some of Italy’s biggest post-war political and financial scandals
Licio Gelli, who has died aged 96, was a one-time fascist blackshirt and grandmaster of a secret masonic lodge at the centre of Italy’s biggest post-war political scandal; it centred around the collapse, in 1982, of the Banco Ambrosiano, and followed the death of the bank’s former president, Roberto Calvi, who was found in June 1982 hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.
Calvi had risen to the top of Italy’s largest private bank in the 1970s, during which he worked hand-in-glove with Michele “The Shark” Sindona, a Sicilian banker well connected with both the Mafia and the Christian Democrat political establishment. Both men were members of the P2 (Propaganda Due) lodge of which Gelli was the head and which had operated illegally after it was dissolved by the Grand Orient of Italy (the official Freemasons) in 1976.
With Sindona (who was subsequently killed in jail by a poisoned cup of coffee in 1986), Calvi was thought to have set up a complicated web of banking and insurance interests, including laundering drug money for the Mafia and forging a close partnership with Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Vatican’s bank, the Istituto per le Opere Religiose (IOR). Many paths were allegedly smoothed by Gelli.
An investigation into Calvi’s dealings began in 1978, and in 1981 he was sentenced to four years in jail on charges relating to the illegal export of capital. Freed pending appeal, on June 10 1982 he fled to London on a false passport with a briefcase full of incriminating documents, some showing he was attempting to blackmail the Vatican, among others, in his bid to relieve the financial pressure on his bank. His body was discovered a week later by a postal clerk crossing Blackfriars Bridge.
In August 1982 Ambrosiano finally collapsed and it became clear that over $1 billion had disappeared. The fact that Calvi was a member of Gelli’s lodge, whose members called themselves the “frati neri” (“black friars”) and was found hanging under Blackfriar’s Bridge, his pockets weighted down with bricks, raised suspicions that P2 was somehow involved in his death. But a coroner’s inquest in 1982 returned a verdict of suicide.
In 2003, however, City of London Police reopened their investigation as a murder inquiry after British and German forensic experts concluded that Calvi could not have killed himself, and in 2005 Gelli and five others, including the Mafia boss Giuseppe “Pippo” Calò, were formally placed under investigation in Italy on charges of ordering his murder. But Gelli’s name was not in the final indictment at the trial that started in October that year, and the case against the other suspects was dismissed after 20 months for lack of evidence.
The Calvi and Banco Ambrosiano affair, however, was not the darkest page in the Gelli story.
In 1981, the year before the bank collapse, Gelli had made international headlines when a police raid on his office discovered a secret list of 1,000 prominent politicians, magistrates, journalists, businessmen (among them Italy’s future leader Silvio Berlusconi), policemen, the heads of all three of Italy’s secret services and some 40 senior military commanders, who were all members of P2. The discovery helped bring down the Christian Democrat government of Arnaldo Forlani.
When searching Gelli’s villa, police found a document headed “Plan for Democratic Rebirth”, which called for a consolidation of the media, suppression of trade unions, and the rewriting of the Italian Constitution. “The availability of sums not exceeding 30 to 40 billion lire would seem sufficient to allow carefully chosen men, acting in good faith, to conquer key positions necessary for overall control,” it read. A subsequent parliamentary commission said the aim of P2 had been “to exert anonymous and surreptitious control” of the political system.
As the scandal slowly unravelled, Gelli was also implicated in a series of other crimes, including funding neo-fascist terrorist groups, and frustrating efforts to save the former prime minister Aldo Moro, who was murdered by the Red Brigades leftist guerrilla group in 1978 after a 55-day kidnapping. Most seriously, he was accused of being one of the masterminds behind the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980, in which 85 people lost their lives, in an attempt to destabilise the Italian state and pave the way for a Right-wing coup.
Gelli was first arrested in Geneva in September 1982 after he tried to withdraw funds from his numbered Swiss bank account, which held $150 million that had been deposited by South American affiliates of Banco Ambrosiano. The Swiss arrested him for entering the country on a false passport. The following year, however, he escaped from jail after bribing a prison guard and spent the next four years on the run, probably in Chile.
In 1987 he returned to Switzerland where he surrendered and was sentenced to two months in prison for bribery, while an Italian court sentenced him in absentia to eight years in prison on charges of financing Right-wing terrorist activity in the 1970s. The following year the Swiss authorities agreed to extradite him to Italy to face trial on fraudulent bankruptcy, fraud and swindling charges in connection with the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, but not on nine other charges, including “subversive association” over the Bologna bombing – an offence not recognised under Swiss law.
Photo: Rex Features
Various court proceedings ensued. In July 1988 Gelli was absolved of charges of subversive association but was given a five-year prison term for “slandering” (i.e. obstructing) the investigation into the Bologna bombings, although terms of his extradition meant that he did not serve time for his crime. In 1992 he was sentenced to 18 and a half years in jail for his part in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, later reduced to 12 years on appeal. The same year he was one of 16 former P2 members put on trial, most of whom were accused of political conspiracy, spying, revealing state secrets and threatening the constitution. Due to the terms of his extradition, however, Gelli faced only charges of slander and false representation. He was found guilty in 1994 and received a 17-year sentence.
In 1996 Gelli’s lawyers claimed that he was in bad health, suffering from a heart condition which required urgent surgery. Accordingly he was released and kept under 24-hour surveillance in his luxury villa in the Tuscan town of Arezzo. Two years later he disappeared from house arrest and when police, armed with a search warrant, raided his villa, they found 160 kg of gold bars hidden in vases of geraniums and begonias. There was speculation that it was part of a 55-ton fascist haul that Gelli had supposedly “escorted” out of Yugoslavia on a Red Cross-marked train in 1942. Rearrested in Cannes, where he had been living for four months under a false name, Gelli returned to Italy, where he remained under house arrest.
Licio Gelli was born in Pistoia, north of Florence, on April 21 1919. Expelled from school aged 17, during the 1930s he volunteered for the Blackshirts’ expeditionary forces sent by Benito Mussolini in support of Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and subsequently became a liaison officer between the Italian government and Nazi Germany. After the war, accused of torturing anti-fascist partisans, he fled to Argentina, where he built up links that later brought him friendship with its dictator Juan Peron.
Returning to Italy, he began work at a mattress-spring company and rose quickly to become its managing director and the director of several other interconnected businesses.
In 1966 Gelli joined an old-established Italian Freemasons lodge, P2, rising to its grandmaster in 1973. After its dissolution it became a “black”, or “covert” lodge, operating illegally in contravention of Article 18 of the Italian constitution banning secret associations, until 1981. It was later described as “a state within a state” and Gelli became known as “The Grand Puppet Master”. In the 1970s when the Italian Communist Party was a major force, there was fear among Nato countries was that Italy could be vulnerable to a Soviet-backed leftist takeover. Gelli is said to have established contacts with US intelligence during the Allied occupation of Italy and there were claims that P2 had been bankrolled by the CIA.
New charges of tax fraud were filed against him two years ago and the state took ownership of his villa, though he continued to live there until his death.
“I am a fascist and will die a fascist, ” he declared at a news conference in 1999.
Gelli is survived by his second wife, Gabriella, and by a daughter and two sons.
Licio Gelli, born April 21 1919, died December 15 2015