Welcome to the third installment in my ongoing examination of the notorious Masonic lodge known as Propaganda Due, or P2 for short. The Italian secret society first gained widespread exposure in the early 1980s when it was linked to a host of scandals that threatened to topple the Italian government. In the decades that have followed compelling evidence has emerged that not only did P2 serve as a kind of state-within-a-state but also that its range was vast, stretching across multiple continents and ensnaring a host of VIPs of various stripes.
With the first installment of this series I primarily focused upon P2's Venerable Grand Master, the former Black Shirt and SS man Licio Gelli. With the second installment I outlined evidence linking P2 to a series of terrorists bombings that rocked Italy in a period often referred to as the "Years of Lead." P2's links to the Lisbon-based fascist terror network known as Aginter Press (or the Press gang) was also noted in that installment.
|Venerable Grand Master Licio Gelli (top) and "God's Terrorist" Yves Guerin Serac (bottom), the founder of Aginter Press|
Of these three individuals, at least two --Sindona and Calvi --have been revealed as members of Propaganda Due. It has long been suspected that Bishop Marcinkus had been initiated as well but this has never been confirmed definitively. Marcinkus did, however, seem to have gained a familiarity with organized crime at a young age. The future bishop, who was born in 1922, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Cicero during the heyday of Al Capone and the Chicago mob.
None the less he ended up in the clergy in 1947 despite having ideal measurements for more physical demanding pursuits: Marcinkus stood 6'3 and was solidly built all around. Reportedly he was an excellent football player as well and would later find good use for his physicality. Five years later, in 1952, he would find himself in Italy where he made what would prove to be a life-changing friendship: namely, he became acquainted with Giovanni Battista Montini, who a little over a decade later would be known as Pope Paul VI. In 1952 Marcinkus would also begin the first stages of his international career when he was tapped by the Vatican to serve overseas.
"... Marcinkus was transferred to the English section of the Vatican Secretary of State's office in 1952. Tours of duty attached to the Papal Nuncios of Bolivian Canada followed, then in 1959 he returned to Rome and the Secretary of State's Department. His fluency in Spanish and Italian insured his constant employment as an interpreter.
"In 1962 the Cardinal of New York, Francis Spellman, advised Pope Paul during one of his frequent trips to Rome that Marcinkus was a priest with an excellent potential. In view of the fact that Spellman headed the wealthiest diocese in the world at the time, and was frequently referred to as 'Cardinal Moneybags' – a tribute to his financial genius – the Pope began quietly to monitor Paul Marcinkus.
"In 1964, during a visit to down-town Rome, the over-enthusiastic crowds were in danger of trampling the Vicar of Christ underfoot. Suddenly Marcinkus appeared. Using shoulders, elbows and hands he physically clove a path through the crowds for the frightened Pope. The following day the Pope summoned him for personal thanks. From then on he became the unofficial bodyguard to the Pope and his nickname, The Gorilla, was born.
"In December 1964 he accompanied Pope Paul to India; the following year to the United Nations. By now Marcinkus had taken over the duties of security advisor on such trips. Personal bodyguard. Personal security advisor. Personal translator. The boy from Cicero had come far..."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 93-94)
"In 1963, when Paul VI began monitoring his career, Marcinkus was supervising the construction of Rome's most luxurious priests' residents, the Villa Stritch. Paul VI asked him to help his personal secretary, Father Pasquale Macchi, organize the Eucharist Congress planned for Bombay at the end of the year. Marcinkus and Macchi hit it off well. For the next few years they virtually ran the papal household, and anyone hoping for a confidential chat with the Holy Father had to pass through them. Marcinkus masterminded the Pope's eight remaining foreign journeys, and saved Paul's life by overpowering a knife-wielding assailant as he lunged through the crowd at Manila's international airport.
"After Spellman's death in 1967, US contributions to the Vatican decreased significantly. Father Macchi suggested that Marcinkus might be the man to reverse the situation. The idea appealed to the pontiff who decided to shift Marcinkus into a vacant position at the IOR, under the octogenarian Cardinal Di Jorio. Marcinkus was an excellent organizer but had no experience as a banker. He requested time off to visit a couple of big money-centre banks, study their systems and see from the inside how they operated. The request granted, he went to Chase Manhattan in New York, in his own words, 'for a day or two... to see how stocks and stuff operated', and then to Continental Illinois in Chicago, where he was given 'a kind of three-day course, taking me through everything'. He spent another day with the Continental Finance Corporation in Chicago to learn about trust operations, followed by a final day-long tour of a small bank. In those seven days, Marcinkus became an international banker, equipped to play a leading role in managing the Vatican's finances. On Christmas Eve 1968, Paul VI made him titular Bishop of Orta, and two weeks later confirmed the new bishop's appointment as the IOR's secretary. Marcinkus's starting salary was $6,400 per annum."
(Their Kingdom Come, Robert Hutchison, pgs. 239-240)
IOR stands for Institute of Religious Works. While this institution is commonly referred to as the "Vatican bank", this is a bit misleading. In point of fact, the Patrimony of the Apostolic See is the actual treasury and central bank of the Vatican. None the less, the IOR is an extremely important institute. Originally envisioned as kind of investment bank, it would dispense a great deal of largess to questionable parties during Marcinkus' tenure running the institute. But more on that in a moment.
The next figure up for consideration is financier Michele Sindona. While it has been widely speculated that Marcinkus had ties to both P2 and the Mafia, there is no speculation with Sindona. He was both a P2 member and essentially a banker for the mob. His ties to the latter began at a very early age. Amusingly, the native Sicilian seems to have first linked up with the Mafia at the urging of various Catholic priests.
"After graduating from the University of Messina in 1942 with a degree in tax law, Michele Sindona earned a lucrative living by buying and selling on the black market. He bought food and supplies that had been stolen from the American PX in Palermo and smuggled it to Messina where it was sold to the starving population for a huge profit. To gain permission to engage in this business, Sindona turned to the Archbishop of Messina who introduced him to Vito Genovese, who had returned to Sicily after being accused of the gangland slaying of Ferdinand 'the Shadow' Boccia, a small-time crook in America.
"Genovese, who was known as 'Don Vitone,' was one of the leading figures in Murder, Inc. As underboss to Lucky Luciano (Salvatore Lucania), he ran the narcotics racket and the white slavery trade in Manhattan. Along with his boss, Genovese he had planned and executed the murder of Joe Masseria, the American Mafia's 'boss of all bosses.'
"The arrangement worked well. Sindona granted Genovese a percentage of his profits for protection and Genovese granted the young entrepreneur freedom to operate without interference from other Mafiosi. Sindona was not alone in this enterprise. Everybody in the Sicilian Mafia from the capos to the lowest piciotto was making a bundle. Almost everything that Italians ate, wore, smoke, and drove during the Allied Occupation came from American military bases. 'How did I accumulate my fortune?' Don Luciano Leggio explained to his prosecutors in court many years later. 'I did the black market during and after the war. Just think! You could buy a quintal of grain from the Farm Board for 2,000 , 2,500 lire and sell it on the black market for 15,000.'
"Don Luciano Leggio was not only a Mafia capo but also the leader of Anonima Sequestri, a quasi-fascist political group in Palermo. Leggio befriended Sindona and accepted him into his crime family. Through the capo, Michele came to know Fr. Agostino Coppola, who later was accused of master-minding one murder and the kidnapping of several Italian business and political leaders. Fr. Coppola was not the only Catholic priest in the Sicilian Mafia. The clergy regularly crossed the line of peaceful co-existence with the mob. In 1962, four Franciscan monks were tried, convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for conspiracy, extortion, and manslaughter. In 1978, Fr. Fernando Taddei, prior of St. Angelo's Cathedral in Rome, was arrested for buying ransom money – at 70% of face value – from his Mafia family and washing it through Vatican financial institutions. Such laundering was necessary since ransom money was numbered and easily traced. Sindona, from the start of his career, learned to look upon Catholic prelates not only a spiritual pastors but also as potential partners in crime."
(The Vatican Exposed, Paul L. Williams, pgs. 103-105)
|Don Vito Genovese, longtime head of the Genovese crime family and one of the most powerful figures in the annuals of organized crime, was Sindona's initial patron|
"The Mafia family Gambino were particularly taken with the young Sindona and his dexterity at placing dollar investments without reference to tiresome tax regulations. The Gambino family has global interest but it's two main power centres are New York and Palermo. The former is controlled by the Gambinos, the latter by their Sicilian cousins the Inzerillos. On November 2nd, 1957 there was a 'family' reunion in the Grand Hotel des Palmes, Palermo. Also invited to enjoy the wine and food was Michele Sindona.
"The Gambino family made Sindona an offer he accepted with enthusiasm. They wanted him to manage the family's re-investment of the huge profits just beginning to accure from the sales of heroin. They needed a laundryman. Sindona, with his proven abilities at moving amounts of money in and out of Italy without disturbing the tranquility of the Government's taxation departments, was an ideal choice. Added to this ability was the fact that he was by the time of the Mafia summit conference already a director of an increasing number of companies. He frequently said to grateful clients, 'No, I'll take payments in some shares in your company.' He had also begun to perfect the technique of acquiring troubled companies, dividing them up, selling off pieces, merging other pieces, shuffling everything sideways and then selling at a large profit. It was dazzling to behold, particularly if you were not paying the conjuror.
"Within seventeen months of the Mafia summit conference Sindona bought his first bank, aided by Mafia funding. Sindona had already discovered one of the cardinal rules of theft: the best way to steal from a bank is to buy one. "
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 96-97)This was the beginning of what would become a multimillion dollar financial empire by the early 1960s. But before the 1950s had even come to a close Sindona seems to have forged ties with two other interests that would later serve him well: the upper hierarchy of the Vatican and the US intelligence community.
"In 1959, the same year in which he acquired BPF, Sindona made another very shrewd investment. The Archbishop of Milan was trying to raise money for an old people's home. Sindona stepped in and raised the entire amount: 2.4 million dollars. When Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini opened the Casa della Madonnina, Sindona was by his side. The two men became firm friends, with Montini relying more and more on Sindona's advice in problems other than diocesan investments.
"What Cardinal Montini may not have known is that the 2.4 million dollars were supplied to Sindona very largely from two sources: the Mafia and the CIA. Former CIA agent Victor Marchetti was later to reveal:
In the 1950s and the 1960s the CIA gave economic support to many activities promoted by the Catholic Church, from orphanages to the missions. Millions of dollars each year were given to a great number of Bishops and Monsignors. One of them was Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini. It is possible that Cardinal Montini did not know where the money was coming from. He may have thought it was coming from friends."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 97-98)
|Pope Paul VI (Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini), who may have unwittingly opened the Vatican up to a host of unsavory influences|
"... In 1970 the CIA had asked him to buy a 2 million bond issue from the National Bank of Yugoslavia. Sindona obliged. The CIA placed the bonds in Yugoslavia in what they considered 'friendly hands.' Sindona also moved money on behalf of the CIA into the hands of right-wing groups in Greece and Italy."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pg. 119)Let us return to the Daily American episode for a moment, however. Mark Antinucci, the Italo-American who owned the Daily American, had reportedly first made Sindona aware of Pope Paul VI's personal secretary, Paul Marcinkus, in 1967. Shortly thereafter the two men struck up a friendship. It was also around this time that Sindona became involved with Licio Gelli and P2 as well. Fixing a precise year as to when Sindona was officially initiated into the lodge is difficult as this researcher has found several accounts that vary from between 1967 and 1977, but there can be little doubt that Sindona was running in the same circles as Gelli by the late 1960s.
|Did the CIA-funded Rome Daily America play a key role in bringing together Marcinkus, Sindona and the P2 network?|
"Sindona, made other important friends, including... David Kennedy, President Nixon's first Secretary of the Treasury and Chairman of the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company. Sindona managed to have the bulk of the Vatican's investment in U.S. stocks funneled through Conneaut Illinois. Similarly, Kennedy arrangde for Continental Illinois to purchase 20% of Sindona's Banca Privata Finanziaria in Milan. Kennedy became a director of Fasco International, one of Sindona's holding companies, and was later sued for $54 million by the Italian government for illegally conspiring with Sindona to sell Talcott Corporation, an asset of Banca Privata Finanziaria, to a group of Utah businessman.
"Sindona also became friendly with Richard Nixon. The two lunched together on several occasions. Nixon, in fact, had recommended to many of his clients and associates that they should avail them selves of Sindona's expert investment banking services."
(The Vatican Exposed, Paul L. Williams, pg. 125)
This was about par the course for the company Nixon was keeping during this time. He also managed to rub elbows with William Mellon Hitchcock at seemingly the same time he was having dealings with Sindona. Hitchcock was an heir to the Mellon family fortune (one of the oldest and richest of the various Eastern Establishment dynasties) and in the late 1960s had become the banker for the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the largest LSD distribution network in the world during this era. It was in this capacity that he found himself rubbing elbows with Tricky Dick.
"Hitchcock took full advantage of his unlimited borrowing privileges at Fiduciary... he poured over $500,000 into unregistered 'letter stocks' (the kind that aren't traded publicly but tend to show dramatic gains on paper) associated with the Mary Carter Paint Company, later known as Resorts International. It was the single largest chunk of money raised by Resorts, an organizations suspected of having ties to organized crime. Resorts International proceeded to build a casino on an exclusive piece of Bahamian real estate called Paradise Island. A star-studded cast was on hand for the grand opening of the gambling spa, complete with tennis courts, swimming pools, albino beaches, and the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. It was New Year's Eve 1968 and the guest of honor at the gala event was none other than Richard Nixon, who was about to launch a successful bid for the White House. James Crosby, president of Resorts International, contributed $100,000 to Nixon's campaign. Crosby and Bebe Rebozo, Nixon's best friend, mingled with a bevy of movie stars, jetsetters, gangsters, and GOP faithful. Billy Hitchcock was also there, idling among the heavies with drink in hand."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, pg. 245)
|Hitchcock is to the right; this researcher has written much more on Hitchcock and the Mellon family before here|
By the mid-1970s Sindona was at the apex of his influence. Not only was he flying high, but there are indications that he developed a bit of a sense of humor concerning his acquisitions. For instance he became a major holder in the American giant Gulf and Western during this time. Gulf and Western in turn owned Paramount Studios, which in 1972 would unleash The Godfather, an Oscar-winning film that has done more than any other picture to glorify organized crime. Ironically the plotline of the third installment in the acclaimed franchise would be inspired by the shenanigans Sindona, Marcinkus and P2 were getting up to at the time Sindona's holdings were developing the first film.
Naturally it was at the peak that Sindona's financial empire started its gradual process of unraveling. The catalyst was Sindona's purchase of what was then the twentieth largest bank in these United States. As the institute was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy at the time there is more than a hint of megalomania behind Sindona's actions.
"For the moment, Sindona soared on top of the world. He owned a score of banks around Italy, which he proceeded to milk to build a personal fortune approaching $500 million. This collection fitted neatly with his humming cash register in the heart of the Vatican. He shipped at least $40 million in St. Peter's Pence through the IOR to his private accounts in Switzerland. Marcinkus creamed off millions in fees for the church poor box, P2 and of course, himself. Sindona now made the elementary mistake of many ambitious men who reach for the sky. The son of an impoverished Sicilian family yearned for a truly heavyweight American bank to command real respect. He duly got it in 1972, in the shape of Long Island's Franklin National. He was Icarus now, gradually feeling the heat. In April 1974, Franklin National plunged south in the worldwide stock market crunch and so did Sindona. In the autumn, Franklin National was declared insolvent. Sindona's vast network of swindles was thus revealed to the world. The lifeboat victims included, thanks to Marcinkus, the Holy See, to the tune of $30 million. Sindona was hung out to dry on a string of conspiracy charges in the United States and Italy. Like other figures finding themselves in similar difficulties... it would all end – as such matters are wont to do in Italy – with a morning sip of prison coffee."
(Gladio: NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe, Richard Cottrell, pgs. 225-226)
|Sindona pre-prison coffee|
"Roberto Calvi was born in Milan on April 13th, 1920, but his family roots are in the Valtellina, a long alpine valley near the Swiss border... After studying at the prestigious Bocconi University he fought for Mussolini on the Russian front in the Second World War. Then he followed his father into banking. In 1947 he went to work for Banco Ambrosiano in Milan. Deriving its name from St. Ambrose, the bank exuded religiosity. Like Banca Cattolica del Veneto it was known as 'The Priest's Bank'. Baptismal certificates establishing the holder was Catholic were obligatory before a bank account could be opened. Prayers thanking God for the annual figures were offered at the end of board meetings. In the early 1960s there was a greater air of reverence inside the bank than in a number of nearby churches. The Knight with the ice-cold eyes had other plans for the sleepy diocesan bank which included among its customers the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Montini. By the time Montini became Pope Paul VI in 1963 Calvi had advanced within the bank to Central Manager. When Pope Paul decided to call Sindona into the Vatican to relieve the Church of its embarrassingly large Italian holdings, The Shark in The Knight were close friends. They were already plotting to gain control of Banco Ambrosiano and transform it into a very special kind of international banking institution. In 1971, Calvi became Managing Director of the Bank. At fifty-one years of age he had risen far above his father's humble clerical position. The average man might have been content to rest on his laurels for a while and enjoy leading the prayers of the board meeting. The only thing that was average about Roberto Calvi was his height. His ability to dream up crooked schemes for laundering Mafia money, exporting lire illegally, evading tax, concealing the criminal acts of buying shares in his own bank, rigging the Milan Stock Market, for bribery, for corruption, for perverting the course of justice, arranging a wrongful arrest here, a murder there – his ability to do all of this and more puts The Knight in a very special criminal class. Calvi was prone to advise all and sundry that if they really wanted to understand the ways of the world that they should read Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather. He carried a copy everywhere, rather like a priest with his Bible.
"Calvi and was introduced to Bishop Marcinkus by Sindona in 1971 and instantly joined the very select Vatican clan of 'uomo di fiducia', men of trust: that select group of laymen who worked with and for Vatican Incorporated ..."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 128-129)
"When the Milan Stock Exchange began to fall in 1974, among those to be hurt was Banco Ambrosiano. Calvi was particularly vulnerable. The main ingredient in international banking is confidence. It was known that he was a close associate of Sindona. When Il Crack occurred, the banking world began to take a more cautious view of The Knight. Credit limits to Ambrosiano were cut back. Loans on the international market became difficult to obtain and, most ominous of all, the demand by small investors for the Bank's shares began to diminish, with a consequent drop in the price. Magically, at what was fast becoming the eleventh hour for Ambrosiano, a company called Suprafin SA with a registered office in Milan, entered the market. This finance house began to display supreme confidence in Signor Calvi. It bought shares in his bank daily and before there was time for the name Suprafin to be written on the list of shareholders, the shares were resold to companies in Liechtenstein and Panama. Confidence in Calvi began to return and Suprafin kept on buying. In 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978, throughout all of these years Suprafin continued to display massive faith in the future of Calvi'ss bank – 50 million dollars' worth of faith.
"Suprafin clearly knew something no one else did. Between 1974 and 1978 Ambrosiano shares continued to fall, yet Suprafin acquired over 15 per cent of the bank. Suprafin was officially owned by two Liechtenstein companies, Teclefin and Imparfin. In theory these were technically owned by the Vatican bank. That was the technical theory. In practice Suprafin was owned by Calvi. Consequently, with the complete knowledge of the Vatican bank, he was supporting the market value of Ambrosiano shares by massive purchases – a totally illegal activity. The money to finance the fraud came from international loans made to the Luxembourg subsidiary and from the parent bank in Milan.
"The Vatican Bank received huge annual payments for providing the facilities for The Knight to operate a gigantic international fraud. This money was paid in a variety of ways. All Vatican deposits with Ambrosiano banks received interest payments of at least 1 per cent higher than other depositors. Another method was for Ambrosiano to buy shares from the Vatican. On paper the Vatican Bank would sell a block of shares to a Panamanian company at a price approaching 50 per cent more than the shares were actually worth. The shares would never leave the Vatican portfolio and the bank that Marcinkus controlled would be millions of dollars better off. The Panamanian company, usually with a capital of only a few thousand dollars, would borrow the millions from Banco Ambrosiano Overseas in Nassau where Marcinkus was a director. The Nassau branch would have been loaned the money initially by the Luxembourg company, who in turn had borrowed the money from international banks.
"Calvi was obviously hoping against hope that the price of Banco Ambrosiano shares would eventually pick up so that he could offload them. By 1978 he was walking on a knife-edge. As if this entire operation was not enough to keep the banker awake at nights, he was also contending with the problems of laundering Mafia money. Allied to that were the constant demands being made by P2 for funds. This involved further embezzlement. He was also suffering from the aftereffects of a blackout campaign by Michele Sindona."
(In God's Name, David Yallop, pgs. 132-134)
These alleged demands P2 were making on Calvi for money during this time were likely linked to some shady dealings the banker was conducting in Madrid. In 1976 Calvi had acquired holdings in the Spanish bank Banco Occidental and took a seat on the board of directors. Another director of Occidental at this time was Pio Cabanillas Gallas, the Venerable Grand Master of P3, a Spanish Masonic lodge linked to P2. As was noted in part two, Spain was a hot bed at this time for militant far right organizations. In addition to the P3 there was also Otto Skorzeny's Paladin Group and the extremely influential Catholic cult Opus Dei. In nearby Portugal there was the Aginter Press terror network fronted by "God's Terrorist" Yves Guerin-Serac. As was noted in the second installment, its likely Aginter Press (sometimes referred to as the Press gang) had ties to the P2 network.
So yes, there was a lot of intrigue in Spain during this time. And with that, back to Calvi's dealings in Madrid:
"Banco Occidental concentrated on developing outlets in Latin America and Florida by acquiring participations in small commercial banks and buying hotels. A member of Occidental's legal department also suspected that Calvi used Banco Occidental as the hinge for arms transactions with Latin American dictatorships. These transactions required Calvi's frequent presence in Madrid. But to stay overnight in the Spanish capital would have attracted attention, so United Trading purchased an executive jet to carry him to and from Madrid in the same day. Instructions were given to Occidental staff never to mention the Learjet when talking on the telephone with the Ambrosiano offices in Milan, suggesting that the staff in Milan was not supposed to know of the aircraft's existence."
(Their Kingdom Come, Robert Hutchison, pg. 266)Its very likely that arms transactions with brutal Latin American dictatorships were at the heart of the Vatican banking scandal. This angle shall be pursued in the next installment as I breakdown the collapse of Calvi's empire. Stay tuned.