Roberto Calvi, who earned his nickname for his close ties to the Vatican Bank, was found hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London amid strong suspicions that he was murdered. Ayda Suarez Levy, the widow of a Bolivian druglord, claims that Calvi was laundering drug cartel money through an account in Nassau, in the Bahamas, on behalf of South American drug lords.
The Cocaine King sheds new light on Calvi’s death, which remains one of the Vatican’s darkest chapters and most contested mysteries. Mrs Levy, the widow of Roberto Suarez Gomez, claimed in an interview on Italian television on Monday that Mr Calvi was her husband’s “Italian contact”.
“He said he could vouch for us,” she told Italy’s Channel Seven television. “He said by vouching for us at such a high level, business would go well for us. I imagine he was talking about cocaine. He was not explicit but I imagine that is what it was about.”
Ms Levy recounted an encounter involving her husband and Gunter Sachs, a multi-millionaire German playboy who was the third husband of Brigitte Bardot. She said that six months before Calvi’s death, she and her husband met Mr Sachs on a trip to Switzerland and they discussed the Italian banker.
Mr Sachs, who committed suicide in his Swiss chalet last year at the age of 78, reportedly told the Bolivian drug baron: “Calvi is very scared because Pablo Escobar wants his money back from the bank in Nassau.” The Bahamas bank that he was referring to was an affiliate of Banco Ambrosiano, which was Italy’s biggest private bank when it collapsed in 1982.
It was headed by Mr Calvi, who had close ties to the Vatican’s bank, formally known as the Istituto per le Opere di Religion – the Institute for Religious Works.
The claims made in the book could “completely revolutionise the interpretation of Calvi’s death,” said Philip Willan, the author of “The Last Supper – The Mafia, the Masons and the killing of Roberto Calvi“. Until now the speculation was that Calvi was murdered by the Cosa Nostra mafia of Sicily, possibly with complicity by Italian politicians or the Vatican itself.
“If Escobar wanted his money back and Calvi was not able to pay it, he would have had a motive to kill Calvi. There is evidence suggesting that Calvi may have had direct links to the laundering of drug money in the Caribbean,” said Mr Willan. The evidence was enough to persuade the US Customs Service to launch an investigation into the alleged laundering of $34 million through the Bahamas affiliate of the Banco Ambrosiano in the late 1980s.
In 1988 Suarez Gomez, the Bolivian drug trafficker, was given a 15 year prison sentence for drug crimes, but was released in 1996. By then he had accumulated a huge fortune. His widow recounts in the book how his men produced around two tons of cocaine paste in jungle laboratories in Bolivia each day and then sent it to Escobar’s Medellin cartel.
At the height of its power, the cartel, headed by Escobar, was smuggling 15 tons of cocaine into the US each day.