Vatican City: True Financial Crime and Murder [huffingtonpost]

Those who believe we don’t need smart and effective crime-stopping financial regulation have only to look at the smallest independent city-state in the world, Vatican City. The tiny oligarchy is surrounded by Italy and ruled by the Pope. It also has its own bank. If you can’t trust the Vatican Bank, whom can you trust? The answer is no one. At least not without proper controls and consequences for wrongdoing in this lifetime.

A Murder, a “Suicide” and Bank Collapses

Roberto Calvi, chairman of Milan-based Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging by the neck under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June of 1982. Banco Ambrosiano had just collapsed, and London authorities deemed his suspicious death a suicide.

The “suicide” wasn’t a surprise to those who paid attention to investigations into the 1974 collapse of Franklin National Bank — at the time the largest crash in the history of the United States, in which the Vatican Bank lost $55 million. A United States Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) report revealed that Big Paul Castellano (among others), underboss of the Gambino crime family, had a secret Franklin account. Investigations exposed alleged ties between Franklin banker Michele Sindona (later sentenced to 25 years in Otisville), Roberto Calvi, and U.S.-born Vatican Bank head Archbishop Paul Marcinkus. Sindona was extradited to Italy and, in March 1986, he was found dead in his cell while serving time for ordering the murder of investigator Giorgio Ambrosioli. Apparently the prison ran out of poison-free coffee.

After Sindona’s arrest, Italian banking authorities began investigating Calvi. The Vatican Bank allegedly set up foreign dummy subsidiaries for Roberto Calvi’s holding company, and Marcinkus was on the board of some of them. These subsidiaries lent millions of Banco Ambrosiano’s money to the Vatican’s special purpose corporations. When Banco Ambrosiano crashed, $1.3 billion of deposits were missing.

In 1998, Italian investigators used modern forensics to perform a new examination of Calvi’s remains. They concluded Calvi’s murder was staged to look like a suicide. In 2005, several Italian mafia-connected alleged co-conspirators were indicted for Calvi’s murder, and all were later acquitted due to lack of evidence.

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