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The Understold Story: The Vatican, the Mob, Super Ponzi Schemes and MORE

By       Message Gregory Paul     Permalink
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A number of other Vatican officials were accused of being involved in the criminal activities described above, some did not escape capture. Rueters reported that " a top executive of the Vatican's private bank was arrested today and accused of taking part in a fraudulent bankruptcy linked to the jailed financier Michele Sindona, the police said. Luigi Mennini, chief administrator of the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works was arrested in Rome on the order of a Milan magistrate investigating Mr. Sindona's affairs. Mr. Mennini is the senior layman at the bank, which had a minority interest in the Sindona-controlled Banca Uniono" (Anonymous 1981a). Mennini and a Donato de Bonis had their property outside the Vatican seized. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Ugo Poletti, was another who cited Vatican immunity. So did Monsigner Donato de Bonis, who continued to operate as secretary of the Vatican Bank after an investigation began into a billion dollar tax evasion scandal. P-2's Gelli also did fairly well. After fleeing to Argentina, being captured and escaping by bribing a guard, and eventually turning himself in, the hopeful right wing revolutionary, occasional terrorist, contract murderer and high class thief served two months hard time and years in house arrest in his luxurious villa.

In a rare mainstream attempt to provide an overview of events up to 1982, Martin explained that "the man chosen to facilitate the transfer of funds and to guide other overseas operations was Michele Sindona. And by 1974, when il crock [the crook] Sindona was a [known] fact, large sums of money had simply evaporated. Reports placed the losses anywhere from $120 million (too low most authorities seem to agree) to $11 billion (a quite feasible figure many hold)..... Subsequent American investigators into the Sindona affair never cleared up its central mystery: How much money had disappeared and where it had gone. But many thought the answers involved the Vatican bank and its president, Archbishop Marcinkus [who were] associated with Mr. Sindona's Machiavellian scheme of fiduciary trusts, phony deposits and phantom holding companies. Near the end Mr. Sindona was left with only one major backer: the Vatican bank and Archbishop Marcinkus."

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For many years numerous albeit narrowly targeted articles by mainstream reporters in a number of respected newspapers have strongly linked the Catholic church and the Mafia through documented connections between Marcinkus, Paul VI, John Paul II, Gelli, Sindona and Calvi, the two having probably been murdered, as well as many others. It has the potential to rank as one of the great scandals of history. Following the sex abuse and similar ethical disasters it is now apparent that the church is capable of creating and covering up major scandals that are revealed only by strong public and official exposure and pressure. Yet, despite the grave implications of the evidence published so far, no mainstream periodical has published a multi-page, in-depth investigative article or series on alleged relations between the Holy See and the underworld (Martin 1982 and Colby 1987 coming the closest), nor has a book on the issue by a qualified journalist appeared through a major publisher. No network news magazine has broadcast a story on the subject (I am not aware of the situation in Europe), and PBS and cable documentary channels have not presented programming documenting the evidence. As a result few people are aware of the issues. Despite the obvious story appeal, the only feature films that have attempted to portray the Vatican's underworld connections are the 1990 The Godfather III, a box office failure, and the 2002 God's Banker which focused on Calvi6.

Ultimately Archbishop Marcinkus left the Vatican. In or around 1991 he somehow evaded Italian justice and retired to Sun City AZ, where the now eighty something Archbishop has enjoyed golf and other leisure pursuits while remaining quiet (Reaves & Ettenborough 2003). The government of Italy attempted to extradite the cleric, but he had been issued a Vatican passport. Less clear is why the Chicago native was never dealt with by American authorities. Marcinkus is now deceased.

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In 1999 twenty one members of the Sicilian Mafia were arrested in Palermo for executing a $100 million banking scam in alleged cooperation with the Vatican Bank. As usual, Italian investigators could not properly look into the bank because of its owner's sovereign status. Meanwhile, concerns grow over connections between the Mafia and the Polish mob that benefited from the church's means of assisting the overturn of communism. Perhaps diverted by the sex abuse scandal the American press did not direct attention to these ongoing international allegations. But a Washington Post report from Mexico (Jordon 2003) reported that a "federal money laundering investigation of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez has reignited long-smoldering allegations of links between drug money and the Catholic Church..... Government prosecutors have long alleged.....that drug traffickers have given large donations to church leaders who were secretly baptizing their babies and attending their birthday parties..... Nightly updates on television have shown pictures and video of [Cardinal Sandoval] with the wealthy "czar of gambling,' Jose Maria Guardia..... Officials in the attorney general's office have said their investigation also involves Guardia, as well as a congressman from [Mexican President] Fox's political party and other members of Sandoval's family". In an analysis of global money laundering, Becket (2001) listed the "Top-scoring "cut-out' countries, which make it hard to trace the ill-gotten gains back to the getter" as including the Vatican City. Similarly Behar (1999) cites the institution's record of money laundering.

Next is a case that when it broke received extensive coverage in some respects, but in a critical regard was under reported. High school drop out Martin Frankel was a small time hustler and con artist who wanted to become extremely wealthy (Behar 1999, Johnson 2002, Pollack 2002). The only way he could achieve his goals were through criminal means. Despite being permanently banned from trading in securities by the SEC in 1991, in the 1980s and 90s Frankel escalated his activities by leveraging ever larger pyramid schemes into the tens of million needed to initiate what Fortune Magazine (Behar 1999) characterized as "what may be the biggest -- it certainly is the strangest -- scandal in the history of the [American] insurance industry" by setting up and then draining a shell insurance empire. Enjoying oversized housing, mistresses in multiple countries (see www.theaawarenesscenter.org/Frankel_Martin.html), and regularly attending the notorious NY sex club The Vault, Frankel's fantastic project inevitably crashed. In an eerie replay of the chases of Sindona and Calvi, Frankel generated headlines as international authorities chased the fugitive across international borders as the FBI and IRS seizing Frankel's

Greenwich CT
mansions.

Congressional hearings were held to examine how a person like Frankel executed a colossal, multi-state Ponzi scheme. It mostly focused on lax insurance regulations, any Vatican connection was ignored. This brings us to a crucial document. Five state insurance commissioners filed in federal court a suit titled Dale, Pope, Laken, Fisher and Pickens versus Colagiovanni, Collins, Corbally, Endurance Investments Ltd.; The Holy See a/k/a Vatican CityState and Monitor Eccleiasticus Foundation [MEF]7. The suit -- which I quote at length to present the insurance regulators' compelling case in depth as well as provide a better sense of operations in the Vatican, alleges under RICO statutes that between "at least 1990 and 1999, Martin Frankel assisted by Defendants and others, devised and implemented a scheme to defraud insurance companies by acquiring them while concealing Frankel's involvement, of misappropriating the companies assets and laundering the ill-gotten gains. Through this scheme, seven insurance companies were defrauded of more than $200 million [under RICO potential penalties total $600 million]. The defendants participated in activities that furthered and facilitated Frankel's fraudulent scheme."

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Himself Jewish, Frankel decided that the Catholic Church would provide ideal cover as well as support for his operations, and he sought out helpful church members. It proved remarkably easy. After American prosecutor, friend of President Reagan, and devout Catholic Thomas Bolan received a letter through Thomas Corbally8 from "Rosse" [Frankel's cover name] outlining his plan in terms as innocuous as could be managed considering the plan's breathtaking nature, Bolan "traveled to the Vatican and, with Colagiovanni9, proposed the plan to Bishop Francesco Salerno in a meeting at the Vatican. At that time Salerno was the Secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See..... [and] was also on the board of MEF. The parties discussed the proposal, informing Salerno specifically that "Rosse' would be the source of the funds, and would retain control of the $50 million even after it was donated to the Vatican Foundation. On August 18, 1998, Salerno approved the plan, saying it was "a good idea.'.... Afterwords the [Vatican] Secretary of State had misgivings..... Under a new plan [that better covered the Holy See's complicity], Frankel would form St. Francis of Assisi Foundation to Serve and Help the Poor and Alleviate Suffering [a shell charity actually used to purchase insurance companies] [that] would be able to state that it was funded by the Vatican, so that St. Francis..... In actuality [it] would be funded entirely from looted funds held in Frankel's Swiss bank account. Colagiovanni then agreed to allow MEF, the Vatican-related organization of which he was President, to be held out as the "settler' of St. Francis..... MEF was used to create the impression that the funding for [St. Francis] had come from the Vatican."

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Gregory Paul is an independent researcher interested in informing the public about little known yet important aspects of the complex interactions between religion, secularism, culture, economics, politics and societal conditions. His scholarly work (more...)
 

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