World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

“Gior­gio Am­brosoli?” asks a voice be­hind him. Am­brosoli turns around. It’s close to mid­night on 11th July 1979. Three men stand in front of him. “Yes?” the lawyer con­firms, only twig­ging frac­tions of a sec­ond later that he’s just ut­tered his own death sen­tence. Four bul­lets hit his body. Am­brosoli col­lapses on the pave­ment out­side his Mi­lan home.

The Vat­i­can bank’s big­gest scan­dal was like the end of a Shake­spearean tragedy: ev­ery­one died. The two main pro­tag­o­nists of this wild vi­o­lence were Michele Sin­dona and Roberto Calvi. While at­tempt­ing to fur­ther bend the laws of the fi­nan­cial world, they trig­gered a cri­sis that tore down pow­er­ful banks and nu­mer­ous il­le­gal busi­nesses that had the Vat­i­can bank as one of their main share­hold­ers.

Gior­gio Am­brosoli was ap­pointed as a liq­uida­tor to one of the banks con­trolled by Michele Sin­dona and dis­cov­ered un­usual pay­ments in­volv­ing Sin­dona’s ac­count, which had been han­dled by the Vat­i­can bank. He threat­ened to re­veal what many had long sus­pected: the mafia’s money laun­der­ing, the in­volve­ment of the Vat­i­can bank and the role of Michele Sin­dona. The lat­ter hired three killers, but their vic­tim Am­brosoli was only one of many deaths: ev­ery­one who got too close to the se­crets of the Vat­i­can bank was mur­dered – even the pro­tag­o­nists them­selves died in the end. Michele Sin­dona was sen­tenced to 25 years in prison, where he died from cyanide poi­son­ing after an­nounc­ing he was go­ing to spill the beans about the Vat­i­can bank. Mean­while, Roberto Calvi was found hang­ing un­der Black­fri­ars Bridge in Lon­don in 1982 after also want­ing to con­fess. The two bankers had made a pact with the devil – and paid the price.

And to­day? Well, fresh al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing con­tinue to dog the Vat­i­can bank, de­spite Pope Fran­cis or­der­ing it to be more trans­par­ent. Will a mod­erniser such as he be able to open all of the doors?

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