iD magazine - - History -

“Gior­gio Am­brosoli?” asks a voice from be­hind. As Am­brosoli turns around, it’s just be­fore mid­night on July 11, 1979. Three men stand in front of him. “Yes?” con­firms the lawyer— and re­al­izes frac­tions of a sec­ond later that he has just signed his own death war­rant. Four bul­lets strike his body, and Am­brosoli falls to the ground dead.

The Vat­i­can Bank’s big­gest scan­dal so far is like the end of a Shake­spearean tragedy: Ev­ery­one dies. The two dark pro­tag­o­nists of this drama are Michele Sin­dona and Roberto Calvi. While at­tempt­ing to bend the laws of the fi­nan­cial world more and more, their greed trig­gers a cri­sis that plunges pow­er­ful banks into an abyss: banks through which nu­mer­ous il­le­gal trans­ac­tions were ex­e­cuted, which had the Vat­i­can Bank as their main share­holder.

In­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors are sum­moned to the scene— such as Gior­gio Am­brosoli. He was ap­pointed as a liq­uida­tor for one of the banks con­trolled by Michele Sin­dona and he dis­cov­ered un­usual pay­ments there that had been han­dled through the Vat­i­can Bank. He threat­ens to re­veal what many had long sus­pected: the Mafia’s money laun­der­ing, the in­volve­ment of the Vat­i­can Bank, and the role of Michele Sin­dona. Af­ter all, Sin­dona is the one who hires three killers. But their vic­tim, Gior­gio Am­brosoli, is just one of many deaths: Ev­ery­one who got too close to the se­crets of the Vat­i­can Bank was mur­dered— and even the pro­tag­o­nists them­selves died in the end. Sin­dona was sen­tenced to 25 years in prison, where he died in 1986 of cyanide poi­son­ing af­ter an­nounc­ing he’d give an in­ter­view about the Vat­i­can Bank. Roberto Calvi had been found hang­ing from Black­fri­ars Bridge in Lon­don in 1982— he’d wanted to come clean as well. These two bankers made a deal with the devil— and fi­nally paid the price for it.

The Vat­i­can Bank has not changed much. The lat­est scan­dal was in 2014. Though Pope Fran­cis urged the bank to be more trans­par­ent, even he won’t be able to open all the doors.

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