Mysterious deaths and conspiracies go hand in hand, it seems. There are always theories swirling about these strange passings that point to insidious machinations beyond our control or understanding. One very remarkable such case of conspiracy and mystery is the death of a wealthy Italian banker, whose strange demise would become embroiled with talk of mafia dealings, Vatican conspiracies, and the workings of ancient secret societies.
Roberto Calvi was a prominent banker in Italy, chairman of the the Banco Ambrosiano, which was the second largest bank in the country at the time. Calvi was mostly referred to and well-known by his media nickname “God’s Banker,” due to his close ties and financial dealings with the Vatican, and for years he was a well-off, respected figure. It was in 1978 that things would begin to crumble, and the banker would find himself in a spiraling web of scandal, intrigue, and conspiracy. It was in this year that the Bank of Italy investigated the Banco Ambrosiano and found evidence that billions of lire amounting to around $27 million had been transferred out of the country illegally, and they promptly filed a report on the find, which would lead to one of the biggest financial scandals in Italian history.
The criminal investigation that followed in the wake of the report led to the conviction of Roberto Calvi as the chief conspirator in the scandal in 1981. The conviction led to a four-year suspended sentence and a hefty fine of $19.8 million dollars, and Calvi served a short prison stint during which time he attempted suicide, but this did not stop him. Calvi was soon released on bail, amazingly maintaining his position as chairperson of the bank pending an appeal, while meanwhile friends and family insisted that Calvi was innocent and that he had been manipulated and coerced into the shady dealings by sinister parties behind the scenes.
In June of 1982, Calvi sent a cryptic message to Pope John Paul II, which seemed to suggest that such illegal banking transactions were commonplace, indicating that the Vatican had been complacent, and in which he would promise, “a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in which the Church will suffer the gravest damage.” It was all very interesting, considering that the Vatican Bank owned 10% of Banco Ambrosiano and was their main shareholder. Just a few weeks later, the banking behemoth Banco Ambrosiano collapsed under the groaning weight of the scandal and the debt it owed, estimated at being around $1.5 billion. Rather suspiciously, the Vatican Bank agreed to pay off $225 million of the debt, although it was never established if the Holy See had had anything to do with the scandal, and it was granted immunity to prosecution on the matter.