On 18 June 1982 the dead body of a middle-aged man was found hanging by the neck from a rope suspended from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge, London. The pockets of his black suit contained nearly £23,000 in various currencies and were weighted with 12 pounds of builder's bricks. He was Roberto Calvi, president of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano, who in 1981 had been named a member of Licio Gelli's illegal Freemasonic Lodge, Propaganda Due. Calvi was later found guilty by an Italian court of illegally exporting $26.4 million to Switzerland and received a four-year suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to £7.3 million. A week later he was confirmed as chairman of Banco Ambrosiano. In April 1982 Calvi's deputy at the bank was wounded by a would-be assassin. Known as 'God's banker', Calvi had ben closely linked with Instituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), the Vatican Bank, for years. A number of highly questionable transactions involving the Vatican Bank, Calvi and Banco Ambrosiano subsidiaries in Latin America and elsewhere led the Bank of Italy to launch an investigation. On the last day of May 1982 the Bank of Italy demanded an explanation for loans of $1,400 million made by Banco Ambrosiano subsidiaries to several companies registered in Panama owned directly or indirectly by the Vatican Bank. This precipitated a run on Ambrosiano's shares, and eleven days later Calvi disappeared in Rome. Using a false passport, he fled to Austria and then England, arriving at Gatwick on 15 June and travelling straight to London where he remained for several days in an apartment in Chelsea Cloisters. On 17 June the Bank of Italy seized control of Banco Ambrosiano and trading in its shares was suspended after they had dropped twenty per cent in value in one day. Ambrosiano's directors resigned and Calvi's secretary, Graziella Corrocher - who kept the books of Lodge P2 -jumped, or was pushed, to her death from a fourth-floor window at the bank. She left behind her what was obviously intended to be taken as a suicide note, although there is more than a small doubt that this was genuine. The note said: 'May Calvi be double cursed for the damage he has caused to the bank and its employees.'
The following night Calvi's body was found hanging from the scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge, four miles from the apartment in Chelsea Cloisters. Even as the Daily Express postal clerk who found the body was hastening to call the police, Italian police were busy chartering a plane and a party of high officials arrived at Gatwick a few hours later.
There were many rumours: the Mafia, with whom Calvi had connections, had murdered him; frightened and despairing, he had committed suicide; he had been ritually done to death by Freemasons, a masonic 'cable-tow' around his neck and his pockets filled symbolically with chunks of masonry, the location of the murder being chosen for its name - in Italy, the logo of the Brotherhood is the figure of a Blackfriar.
But a City of London inquest later decided that Calvi had committed suicide, a verdict the banker's family immediately announced its intention to challenge. Italian police, and a number of City of London police associated with the case, are convinced it was murder.
The inquest was told that Calvi had been a 'frightened man, fearful of his life' before flying to London in June. And it was never explained why, even if Calvi had decided to do the work of those he feared, he would travel four miles across London late at night to Blackfriars Bridge, fill his pockets with bricks, climb on to the bridge and over the side on to scaffolding he could not possibly have known was there - all this in a man who suffered extreme vertigo - and perform the elaborate task of arranging a heavy rope, presumably brought with him for the purpose, and launch himself off the scaffolding. It would have been easier by far to throw himself from his office window in Italy, or if the idea of suicide only came to him when he reached London - an awfully long way to go just to kill yourself - why not do it with his belt in the comfort of his Chelsea apartment?
The mystery of Calvi's death deepens rather than clarifies with time. It is inextricably bound up with the riddle of P2, the KGB penetration of Freemasonry, and Freemasonry's penetration not only of the Roman Catholic Church but the Vatican itself.* At the time this book goes to press, investigations are continuing into Banco Ambrosiano's links with the enigmatic president of the Vatican Bank, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, and into the continuing international reverberations of the P2 conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Licio Gelli has since been arrested in Switzerland where he was attempting to withdraw nearly $100 million from several numbered accounts at Geneva's Union Bank - money belonging to Banco Ambrosiano. Gelli awaits the outcome of extradition proceedings.
*At a second inquest in June 1983, the jury returned an open verdict.
Meanwhile, too, Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB when the P2 plot was hatched, now sits at the pinnacle of Soviet power and diverts ever more funds towards the KGB's activities in the West, the exploitation of Freemasonry included.
There are several clear areas which call for an investigation into the use of Freemasonry's secrets and its network of contacts. Why is it that, although the United Grand Lodge has powers to revoke the charter of any Lodge found to be conducting itself in an unworthy, immoral or criminal way, this provision is never implemented? Why is it that individual Masons, who betray the Brotherhood by proving daily they have joined for pecuniary or other advantage and by constantly exploiting the unique privileges which Masonry confers, are hardly ever expelled, as the Brotherhood's Book of Constitutions provides? Grand Lodge remains obdurately silent.
I approached United Grand Lodge early in my investigation explaining my aims and how in its own interests the Brotherhood should surely at least talk of its attitude to those 'bad apples' that all but a few Freemasons readily admit are there. I received a courteous rebuff and was told, nicely but firmly, to mind my own business.
This stubborn refusal to speak to outsiders and Grand Lodge's traditional silence in the face of criticism, even when corruption has been traced to members of a Lodge or group of Lodges abusing Masonry for their own ends, does nothing but heighten suspicion.
It is time for Freemasonry to put its house in order, to operate openly, to comply with the laws relating to it, and to be seen to condemn those within its ranks who are 'traitors' to its stated highly moral aims.
No one who has investigated Freemasonry in Britain with a clear brain can fail to be impressed by the goodness it contains and which is manifested in many ways. I have met many men who would otherwise be without purpose or self-respect who have found that Masonry brings out all that is most admirable in them.
But the rot must be cut out ruthlessly, because it is spreading. And as it spreads more and more of the 'good' brethren get out and are replaced by the 'bad'.
In the end is the beginning. Although this first edition of The Brotherhood has reached its final paragraph, it represents barely a glimpse beneath the surface of Freemasonry in modern society. I am still at the start of my investigations, which will continue, and future editions will not only look at the Brotherhood's influence in fields hardly touched on here - like education, the Civil Service, the Press, agriculture, science and many others - but will include further case histories, and any arguments either in favour of or against Masonry which readers of this edition think relevant and cannot find here.