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Article posted Dec 14 2005, 10:14 AM Category: History Source: The Telegraph Print

Mafia wanted me to kill Calvi, says jailed gangster

The former head of the Mafia's British operations has claimed that he was approached to arrange the killing of Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London 23 years ago.

Francesco Di Carlo, 61, a gangster-turned-supergrass, told a court in Italy that just days before the death of the man known as God's banker because of his ties to the Vatican, he heard that the mob was looking for him.

However, by the time he made contact Calvi's body had been discovered and he was told he was no longer needed because "a problem had been resolved".

Di Carlo, also known as Frankie the Strangler, was sentenced to 25 years at the Old Bailey in 1987 after being convicted of trying to smuggle the biggest ever consignment of heroin - valued at 75 million - into Britain.

Mafia turncoats have told prosecutors that the mob wanted Di Carlo to murder Calvi because the banker had bungled a 150 million money-laundering operation.

Ten years ago Di Carlo, the most senior Mafia member ever arrested by Scotland Yard, reportedly confessed to the killing but when a new investigation was launched in Britain and Italy he denied the claim. The probe concluded that Calvi, who was chairman of the Banco Ambrosiano before his death in 1982, had been strangled and his body arranged to make it look as if he had taken his own life.

Four people are on trial for the murder - jailed godfather Pippo Calo, businessman Flavio Carboni, his Austrian girlfriend Manuela Kleinzig and Rome mobster Ernesto Diotallevi - in a specially fortified courtroom at Rome's Rebibbia jail.

Speaking with a soft Sicilian accent from behind a screen, Di Carlo described how at the time of Mr Calvi's death he was travelling between Rome and London. He told the court: "In the days before Calvi's death, I heard that Bernardo Brusca [a Sicilian Mafia member] was looking for me.

"I also heard that Pippo Calo wanted me to do something for them. I had always said I was at their disposal and arranged to meet them. But when I saw them they said it had all been taken care of and they didn't need my help any more. I didn't ask what they wanted me to do.

"Calo just kept saying a problem had been resolved. That's how it works in the Mafia. I said to him that if he needed me at any time I would be there for him."

Di Carlo gave an insight into the murderous workings of the Mafia. "In Cosa Nostra we never say we killed anyone, we say a job has been taken care of."

He said he decided to turn supergrass while in a maximum-security jail in Britain, adding: "I called prison in England university." He offered to help anti-Mafia prosecutors in return for being transferred to an Italian prison, because the organisation had begun killing women and children. "Even the warders in jail in Britain asked me if it was really like that in Sicily. I didn't want to be a part of Cosa Nostra any more."

During proceedings on Friday the prosecutor, Luca Tescaroli, asked Di Carlo to explain why $100,000 was transferred from Switzerland into his Barclays Bank account in London a week before Calvi's death. Di Carlo said the money was from a friend whose uncle had been killed in a Mafia dispute, and who was planning to escape to England. "He sent me the money so that it would be ready for him when he came."

Asked why another supergrass had named him as Calvi's murderer, Di Carlo said: "When I heard this I was in university [English jail]. I couldn't believe it. Everyone in Sicily was saying that because I was in London I was Calvi's killer, but it wasn't true."

Though never convicted of murder, Di Carlo, who came by his nickname after being implcated in more than a dozen Mafia killings involving strangulation, is now being held in an Italian medium-security prison under a witness protection scheme.

In court he was glimpsed only briefly, flanked by two plainclothes policeman, as he walked behind a screen. He wore a full-length coat with the collar turned up, dark glasses and a hat pulled tightly over his head.

At first Calvi's death was recorded as a suicide, but his family were suspicious when they learnt that his pockets were full of bricks and 15,000 in banknotes. He had fled Italy as it became cleat that Banco Ambrosiano was about to collapse.

The trial is expected to last two years.

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