December 17, 1998
Italy Exhumes 'God's Banker' to Review Earlier Suicide Finding
DREZZO, Italy, Dec. 16— Magistrates today exhumed the body of Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from a London bridge in 1982, for an autopsy they hope will establish for certain whether or not he was murdered.
Mr. Calvi, former chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, which collapsed in 1982 after he fled to London, was renowned for his close ties with high Vatican officials as well as his business dealings on behalf of the Mafia.
He was dismissed as chairman of Banco Ambrosiano the day before he died, leaving behind a $1.3 billion bankruptcy mess and one of Italy's most confounding unsolved mysteries. A British coroner's court ruled 16 years ago that Mr. Calvi's death was a suicide. But his son Carlo, his widow, Clara, and many Italians believe that he was murdered.
Police officers, magistrates and Calvi family members gathered in the cemetery of the tiny town of Drezzo on the Swiss-Italian border as workmen opened the gray granite family vault, swept dust from the brown casket and placed it in a black Mercedes hearse waiting by the cemetery gates in the hillside village near Como, a stone's throw from the former Calvi family home.
Mr. Calvi's remains were taken to Milan for tests. Forensic scientists will look for signs of whether the man nicknamed ''God's Banker'' was killed before being transported to Blackfriars Bridge, where he was found hanging by the neck.
Two Rome-based magistrates are trying to ascertain if Mr. Calvi was strangled or perhaps poisoned in his luxury London flat before he was found hanging from the bridge spanning the River Thames in central London on June 18, 1982, his pockets weighed down by bricks.
''The exhumation of Roberto Calvi's remains has been ordered to ascertain the cause of his death,'' a Rome investigating magistrate, Otello Lupacchini, told reporters. ''You ask me if anything can be learned so many years after the event, and in reply all I can say is that forensic medicine has its resources.''
Investigators are looking for evidence that Mr. Calvi handled the bricks, of bone lesions in his neck from the rope and for stains on his trousers indicating that he had climbed on the bridge.
And after 16 years, new testimony and scientific advances are helping investigators get closer to the truth.
''Laser tests on his clothing in 1993 revealed stains that hadn't shown up before,'' Mr. Calvi's son Carlo, a Montreal-based businessman, told reporters at the cemetery.
Mr. Calvi's body was exhumed from the same tomb in 1993 for tests on his clothing but no new autopsy was held.
''So I believe on this basis we could find some new evidence,'' Carlo Calvi said. ''But I also think that the testimony from former Mafia members is more important than scientific evidence.''
Mafia turncoats have testified that Mr. Calvi was killed because he had been laundering money for the Mafia and could no longer be trusted.
Italian judges last year charged Flavio Carboni, a businessman, and Pippo Calo, an alleged Mafia boss, with conspiracy to murder Mr. Calvi. The case has yet to come to trial.
''My father's death sent a message,'' said Carlo Calvi. ''That message was so effective it delayed Italy's anti-corruption campaign by a good 12 or 13 years. After his death whoever could have shed light on the ties between politics, finance and crime decided it would be better to wait.''