THEIR KINGDOM COME -- INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF OPUS DEI
23. Banco Occidental
JAVIER SAINZ MORENO, PROFESSOR OF LAW AT MADRID UNIVERSITY, is an acerbic critic of Opus Dei, having formed a very definite view of its modus operandi which to him seems more suited to an organization specializing in pilleria than a branch of the Catholic Church. He has strong opinions.
'Opus Dei distinguishes between its members and the rest of the world. The institution is not afraid to co-operate with people of dubious reputation, outright crooks or even Socialist politicians. But Opus Dei's hierarchy is careful to insure that these persons do not contaminate or come too close to the Work. Once they have been used, Opus Dei washes its hands of them, casts them adrift, abandons and despises them.
'What gives Opus Dei its importance is the influence it wields and also that it deploys its immense financial resources to spread its apostolate ... Opus Dei knows very well that money rules the world and that religious hegemony of a country or a continent is dependent upon obtaining financial hegemony ...
'By its audacity, Opus Dei dares to do what other religious orders would never dream of doing: it uses the same weapons as its enemies. For this it will hire people it considers unworthy of respect so that these people do its dirty work. This allows it to achieve its objectives without being directly involved. The end justifies the means. Afterwards Opus Dei pays these people off and forgets them in the same way that one disposes of a dirty handkerchief by throwing it into the dustbin.
'Thus Opus Dei will hire lawyers who counsel them how not to pay taxes -- and it's clear that afterwards Opus Dei will claim the money so gained serves to expand its religious works. It will hire architects to find ways of getting around zoning restrictions to obtain building permits -- of course the permits are for schools or old people's homes, therefore they serve the social good. It will engage women to create scandals and discredit politicians who oppose the Work. It is clear that because of their low morals, these politicians would succumb to temptation anyway. In short, it hires disreputable persons to carry out its dirty deeds.'
I thought about this for a long while before realizing that Roberto Calvi was one of those 'dirty handkerchiefs'. He had always maintained to his wife Clara that Opus Dei was deeply involved in his dealings with the Vatican. However, according to his wife, he could only recite the names of two persons within the Curia -- Cardinal Palazzini and Monsignor Hilary Franco -- as intercessors, but neither were, strictly speaking, members of Opus Dei. Of course Calvi was close to Marcinkus, but the Vatican banker was not an Opus Dei member either. He was, on the other hand, a slave for a red hat.
Although not devoutly religious, Roberto Calvi held the Church in esteem. Like Marcinkus, his weak point was his immense ambition. Within the context of the times I believe that Roberto Calvi was not a dishonest person, though his ambition left him open to manipulation. But Calvi had another problem. When he took over as chairman of Banco Amhrosiano he inherited a hidden partner, left behind by Canesi, the former chairman. The hidden partner was, or later became, the bank's largest shareholder, as crazy as that may seem, and whatever Calvi did, as hard as he might have tried -- and he did try -- he could not get rid of that shareholder.
The identity of the hidden shareholder has never been conclusively proven. The evidence indicates that it was the IOR, or a client of the IOR, but the Vatican bank claimed it was operating on behalf of Calvi, producing copies of suspect or at least 'parallel' letters as 'proof'. And so current wisdom holds that, for lack of better proof, Calvi must have been his own hidden partner. Moreover, the wisdom holds that to have amassed such a large shareholding in the bank, of which he was after all but an employee, he must have used the bank's own money. Therefore he was a crook as well.
The Calvi family has tried for more than a dozen years to convince the world that this was not the case. As a task, it has wholly defeated them. But nevertheless, in my inquiries I developed considerable sympathy for their cause. I might have formed a different view had the people Calvi said were his partners, and those who ran the Vatican bank, consistently told a straight story. But they never have. So it is worth going over the Calvi story as it helps establish the credibility of the very same people who have risen to power within the Vatican.
Calvi claimed it was 'the priests' who were sapping Banco Ambrosiano's capital to finance their covert dealings and he couldn't get them to honour their obligations. Now if that were true it was a very Mephistophelian plan on the part of the 'priests'. As the plan developed, Madrid became the clearing house for many of its operations, which meant that he and his Masonic friends, Licio Gelli and Umberto Ortolani, paid frequent visits there.
During the 1960s the Church decided to soften its stand on Freemasonry. The revised codex of canon law no longer mentioned it as a prohibited institution. Certain sections of the Church even came to view Freemasonry as a viable weapon against Marxism. Italy's Propagande Due (P2) Lodge, not a true lodge in the Masonic sense but a secret grouping of prominent persons useful to Freemasonry's anti-Marxist mission, was evidence of this, as many high-ranking prelates were included among its members. The Church 'invaded' the Freemasonry movement and was 'colonizing' it.
P2 was formed in the late 1960s, allegedly at the behest of Giordano Gamberini, a Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy and friend of Giulio Andreotti. But he was much closer to Francesco Cosentino, who also was well introduced in Vatican circles. Either Andreotti or Cosentino, or perhaps both, were said to have suggested the creation of a secret cell of trusted right-wing personalities in key national sectors, but especially banking, intelligence and the press, to guard against what they perceived as 'the creeping Marxist threat'.
The person Gamberini chose to develop the P2 Lodge was a small-time textile magnate from the Tuscan town of Arezzo, midway between Florence and Perugia, who after two years as a Freemason had risen to the Italian equivalent of Master Mason. His name, of course, was Licio Gelli. But the P2's top man, according to Calvi, was none other than Andreotti, followed in line of command by Cosentino and Ortolani.
Andreotti always denied Calvi's allegation. But the fact remains that Calvi feared Andreotti more than Gelli or Ortolani. As "for Cosentino, he died soon after the P2 hearings began. The truth of the matter, Javier Sainz said, is that the P2 Lodge was part of a secret right-wing network created with the Vatican's blessing as part of the Occident's bulwark against Marxism. The P1 Lodge was in France and the P3 Lodge was in Madrid. The P3 was headed by a former minister of justice, Pio Cabanillas Gallas.
The sense of all this was that Opus Dei's methodology consisted of using, if necessary, unclean hands to achieve certain of its secular aims and that Calvi, Gelli, Ortolani and the Propaganda network, having similar political aims, were appropriate assets to be exploited and then abandoned. As far as pouring resources into the battle against Marxist subversion in Latin America was concerned, Opus Dei allegedly decided that a secondary Spanish bank would make a good partner for Calvi's Banco Ambrosiano.
In the mid-1970s, Calvi started to show an interest in Banco Occidental of Madrid. Its shares were listed on the Madrid Stock Exchange. Ablock of 100,000 shares, representing 10 per cent of its capital, was held privately by a Swiss company, Zenith Finance S.A. Dr Arthur Wiederkehr was not on Zenith's board at the time but would become a director in 1980. Calvi acquired these shares for 80 million Swiss francs, ten times more than the going market price, which was an unusual thing for an astute banker to do.  He placed them in a company owned by United Trading.
Banco Occidental belonged to Gregorio de Diego, an enterprising freebooter originally from Salamanca. Diego represented everything that Opus Dei admired in the free enterprising ethic. He was clever, aggressively acquisitive and obviously someone gifted for attracting capital. He had made a fortune during World War II by going from village to village, buying rabbit pelts. He sold the pelts to Germany where they were used to line winter uniforms for the Wehrmacht. He also negotiated an important contract to supply German officers with leather boots. But the Germans were upset when they received twice the number of right-footed boots and no left-footed ones. The reason for their displeasure was that they had paid a substantial sum up front and were obliged to renegotiate the contract. Diego ended up selling them a matching number of left-footed boots at double the price. With the capital acquired from the sale of pelts and boots he managed to corner the market in Spanish wolfram, a strategic mineral of which the Germans were in short supply. After the war he found himself with a mountain of money on his hands while the rest of Spain was in the grips of a liquidity squeeze. In the 1960s he bought the Banco Peninsular, which he renamed Banco Occidental. Its headquarters in the Plaza de Espana had big stained glass windows like a church.
Diego died of a heart attack in the arms of his mistress. Though not a point in his favour, it could hardly be held against the son, also called Gregorio de Diego, who inherited the family empire. Although he had no banking experience Diego II became Occidental's managing director, appointing as chairman the Conde Tomas de Marsal, a Spanish grandee who, like Ortolani, was a secret knight of the papal household.
Under Conde de Marsal, Banco Occidental moved into the investment banking field, taking positions in industrial concerns, such as cement works which fitted well with Diego's property development activities. In the early 1970s, the bank opened a representative office in Rome, primarily for Tomas de Marsal's convenience as frequently he visited the Vatican.
In 1976, Banco Ambrosiano made a loan to Occidental which it used to purchase 1 per cent of Ambrosiano's stock. At the same time, Banco Ambrosiano increased its holding in Banco Occidental to 510,000 shares, for which it paid another 40 million Swiss francs (roughly $18 million), and Calvi went on Banco Occidental's board of directors. In addition to the Conde de Marsal, who insiders described as a religious fanatic, other directors included Pio Cabanillas, the Venerable P3 Master. Like his P2 counterpart, Cabanillas kept secret files on most of Spain's important people. And he was a friend of Luis Valls Taberner.
Diego surrounded himself with Opus Dei members. In this respect his bank was to all intents an Opus Dei bank. His aide-de-camp was supernumerary Eloy Ramirez, for many years the representative in Mexico for Banco Espanol de Credito (Banesto), Spain's largest commercial bank. Diego hired him for his Latin American contacts. He always accompanied Diego on foreign trips. When they arrived in a country for the first time, Ramirez would pay a visit to his brothers in the faith and they opened all the necessary doors. But the real eminence grise was Diego's brother-in-law, Fernando Perez Minguez, an art connoisseur and antiques dealer who kept an office in the bank although he was not officially on the payroll. Like the Ramirez couple, Fernando Perez and his wife were Opus Dei super-numeraries.
Banco Occidental concentrated on developing outlets in Latin America and Florida by acquiring participations in small commercial banks and buying hotels. Amember of Occidental's legal department also suspected that Calvi used Banco Occidental as the hinge for arms transactions with Latin American dictatorships. These transactions required Calvi's frequent presence in Madrid. But to stay overnight in the Spanish capital would have attracted attention, so United Trading purchased an executive jet to carry him to and from Madrid in the same day. Instructions were given to Occidental's staff never to mention the Learjet when talking on the telephone with the Ambrosiano offices in Milan, suggesting that the staff in Milan was not supposed to know of the aircraft's existence.
In Madrid, Calvi met frequently with Cabanillas to discuss the possibility of bidding for control of El Pais, because it was feared that Madrid's largest circulation newspaper was leaning too far to the left. The project fitted in well with Opus Dei's Apostolate of Public Opinion and also the P2 and/or Vatican plans to take control of Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading newspaper. Matias Cortes Domingues, a top Madrid lawyer who acted as Banco Occidental's independent counsel, was said to be advising Cabanillas on the takeover plans. Matias's brother, Antonio, also a lawyer, was an Opus Dei numerary.
Some years before, Umberto Ortolani had purchased Banco Financiero Sudamericano, a small Montevideo bank which he called Bafisud. Calvi and Diego began to use Bafisud for some of their South American ventures. In 1976 Ambrosiano Overseas acquired a 5 per cent interest in Ortolani's Bafisud, and Occidental's Cogebel acquired a matching 5 per cent. Ortolani and Diego became good friends. Diego described the Ortolani mansion in Montevideo as 'a museum containing half the Vatican art treasures'.
In 1977, Banco Occidental and Rumasa developed a relationship, engaging in a series of back-to-back deposits. That interlocking relationships existed between the three banking groups -- Ambrosiano, Occidental and Rumasa -- was demonstrated by a $25 million medium-term loan raised by Rumasa in the marketplace in October 1980. The loan was co-managed by Banca del Gottardo, Ambrosiano's Swiss affiliate, Banque de l'Union Europeenne, also partly owned by the Ambrosiano and closely connected with Opus Dei operations in France, and the First National Bank in Saint Louis, Missouri. This latter bank was linked with the Anheuser Busch brewing family, said to have close ties with Opus Dei in the United States.
By then the interest charges on United Trading's debt to Ambrosiano were running at about $50 million a year. As United Trading was domiciled offshore, it had to be fed with offshore money. But as the debt grew, Calvi had trouble finding a supply of offshore money to cover it. Italian banks required special authorization to export capital and to obtain it Calvi would have had to disclose to the banking authorities the existence of the United Trading network. That meant unveiling its covert operations in South America and elsewhere. He became a slave to the open United Trading position -- a classic example of the Brazilian economist's adage that if a client owes a bank $1 million and cannot repay, he has a problem, but if the client owes the bank $100 million and does not repay, then the bank has a problem. Calvi had a problem, and its name was United Trading.
Calvi's involvement with Banco Occidental was one indication of his dealings with persons and interests close to Opus Dei. But Opus Dei later denied that Calvi had any dealings with its members, either directly or indirectly. Another indication that he was plugged into an Opus Dei network came when Ambrosiano's offshore resources could no longer support the burden of United Trading's debt and a stopgap solution was found in a South American capital where a director of the central bank and several existing or future government ministers were Opus Dei members.
Calvi opened Banco Ambrosiano Andino in Lima in October 1979. The new bank had a capital of $12.5 million, mostly subscribed by Banco Ambrosiano Holding, Luxembourg, itself partly owned by the United Trading family. Banco Andino now became the innermost sanctuary of the United Trading network. By the end of the first month of operations, Andino's balance sheet totalled in excess of $435 million, virtually all of it in book-scrambling loans conceived to hide the real source and end-use of monies deployed by United Trading and its network of offshore companies.
Strangely Calvi believed that Opus Dei was his ally. A surer ally would have been Cardinal Egidio Vagnozzi, head of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs. Vagnozzi was concerned that Opus Dei had proposed to Paul VI, behind his back, to take over the Vatican finances. Vagnozzi was opposed to according Opus Dei any greater influence in Vatican affairs than it already enjoyed. He also mistrusted Marcinkus and spoke to Cardinal Casaroli, the new secretary of state, about his fears. Casaroli, a master of ambivalence, gave him only a minimum of support. He backed Vagnozzi's proposal to call an extraordinary meeting of the 123 cardinals for Monday, 5 November 1979. Vagnozzi wanted to sound the alarm bells, as he maintained that the Vatican was nearing a state of financial collapse. The November 1979 gathering of cardinals was the last major meeting Vagnozzi presided over. He died shortly afterwards and an investigation file he had assembled on Marcinkus disappeared.
At about this time General Giuseppe Santovito, head of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence establishment, hired as his agency's Vatican and Palestinian specialist Francesco Pazienza. Born in 1946 at Taranto, southern Italy, into a staunchly Catholic family, Pazienza held a degree in 'deep-sea physiology'. Blessed with an idiomatic command of five languages, he knew a welter of international celebrities, including Aristotle Onassis, NATO commander-in-chief Alexander Haig, international swindler Robert Vesco, the PLO's Yasser Arafat and a range of Saudi princes. He also had excellent contacts in Latin America, particularly Argentina, where he claimed the nuncio, Archbishop Pio Laghi, was a close friend, as was the Vatican's permanent representative at the United Nations, Archbishop Giovanni Cheli.
Pazienza had been working for SISMI for almost two years when a new Italian crisis was detonated almost by accident by two Milan magistrates. In mid-March 1981, as part of their investigation into Sindona's criminal activities, the magistrates raided Gelli's home and office. Along with photocopies of various classified state documents, they found what appeared to be the membership list of a secret Masonic Lodge. Several cabinet ministers figured among the list's 962 names. The rest were high-ranking military and secret service officers, prominent industrialists, bankers, journalists, foreign political dignitaries, the pretender to the Italian throne and senior Vatican prelates. Gelli telephoned his office from South America while the raid was in progress and learned what was going on. But the rest of the world remained uninformed for several more months.
Pazienza's boss, Santovito, was one of the names on Gelli's P2 list. He was required to resign. Without Santovito's protection, Pazienza's career as a SISMI agent was at an end. After setting up his own security agency in Rome, he was contacted by Flaminio Piccoli, chairman of the Christian Democrat party. Piccoli, who was Andreotti's friend, suggested that Pazienza meet with Roberto Calvi, as the banker was concerned about the integrity of the people running the IOR. Pazienza proposed to procure for Calvi the missing file on Marcinkus assembled by the late Cardinal Vagnozzi.
Pazienza knew Senator Mario Tedeschi, who published a right-wing magazine called Il Borghese, which ran a column on Vatican affairs. Il Borghese received most of its Vatican gossip from a Roman blackmailer, Giorgio Di Nunzio. The same Di Nunzio knew that Vagnozzi had deposited the Marcinkus file with a Zurich lawyer, Dr Peter Duft, and claimed that for a lot of money he could get hold of it.
Calvi was becoming an increasingly important factor in the Italian power equation. His bank had assets of nearly $20,000 million and 38,000 shareholders. In spite of its liquidity problems, it remained profitable and was far from bankrupt. But Calvi was attempting to move the Ambrosiano away from its traditional power base -- the Catholic Right -- into more neutral waters. By the same measure, this would have resulted in diluting the holdings of his hidden partner, and because of this he was showing dangerous initiative. He had begun to do business with the Italian Socialist party. Helping the Socialists to broaden their financial base was not to the liking of Giulio Andreotti. He wanted Banco Ambrosiano brought back into the right-wing Catholic orbit. Paiienza was the person designated to assist in this undertaking.
Pazienza negotiated with Peter Duft, Vagnozzi's 'man of confidence' in Switzerland, for the purchase of the Marcinkus file for $1.5 million. The payment was made from a United Trading account, with one-quarter going to the lawyer and the rest to Di Nunzio's Swiss bank account, and Pazienza delivered the documents personally to Calvi. But the ways of the Lord are wondrous. In 1982, while on a visit to his Swiss account, Di Nunzio died of a sudden heart attack.
Calvi had been working for some months with Gelli and Ortolani on restructuring the Rizzoli publishing empire, which owned the Carriere della Sera. By the end of 1980, United Trading had paid out a total of $40.65 million to Ortolani accounts in Switzerland, apparently to engineer a Rizzoli takeover.  Calvi supposed that Ortolani was operating for the Vatican and that he had joined the Rizzoli board as the Vatican's representative. By March 1981, the United Trading payments to both Ortolani and Gelli had risen to $76 million. Calvi began pressing the IOR to reduce United Trading's open position. He mistrusted Gelli and Ortolani as much as he feared Andreotti and, believing the right-wing Catholic alliance that formed the bank's traditional power base was hampering the Ambrosiano's expansion, he began to search for new partners. Retribution was swift.
In the midst of the Rizzoli negotiations, magistrates in Milan withdrew Calvi's passport, pending charges for illegally exporting capital. Though he had strong suspicions, Calvi was never able to clearly identify who his enemies were. He suspected Andreotti. And increasingly he came to mistrust Gelli and Ortolani. But he was completely mystified by the opacity of the Vatican. He regarded Opus Dei and Cardinal Palazzini as allies. He looked upon Casaroli, concerning whose private life he claimed to hold some compromising documents, as an enemy, and Marcinkus, by his greed and incompetence, as dangerous.
In an attempt to find out more about the Vatican faction he thought was opposing him, Calvi asked Pazienza -- whom he had hired on a retainer of $500,000 -- to arrange a meeting with a member of the Casaroli clique. In the week before Easter 1981 Pazienza introduced Calvi to Casaroli's under-secretary, Archbishop Achille Silvestrini. Rather than informing Silvestrini of his dealings with the IOR, Calvi talked about the Rizzoli group, but Silvesttini remained non-committal. Calvi would have liked to have Ortolani's position in the Rizzoli operation clarified. Silvestrini gave nothing away, perhaps because he knew nothing.
The next phase of the $260-million Rizzoli deal took place at the end of April, with a $95-million transfer from Banco Ambrosiano Andino to the account of the Zirka Corporation, Monrovia, at Rothschild Bank in Zurich. This money was labelled as a loan to Bellatrix, a Panamanian company. Bellatrix was a child of United Trading. The $95 million for Bellatrix joined another $46.5 million that had been transferred to Rothschild Bank from Ambrosiano Services, Luxembourg, earlier that year, supposedly to purchase a block of 189,000 Rizzoli shares held at Rothschild-Bank, at a price twenty times over market value. To these transfers would be added another $8 million, bringing the total amount received by Bellatrix to around $150 million. But there were several anomalies here that only came to light following later investigations. First, although Bellatrix belonged to United Trading, it was Ortolani and Bruno Tassan Din, the Rizzoli managing director, who controlled its operations. Second, Rothschild Bank claimed it had no Bellatrix account on its books. Third, the name of Bellatrix did not appear on Rizzoli's share register.
Marcinkus, meanwhile, was gathering forces to defend himself against the Casaroli group. But as he was planning his counteroffensive disaster struck. 'Something happened that altered the balance of power inside the Vatican. On 13 May 1981, there was an assassination attempt against John Paul II in St Peter's Square. While the Pope was in hospital, Casaroli took charge at the Vatican. This was a serious blow for Marcinkus. Casaroli had every interest in seeing him destroyed,' Pazienza explained.
John Paul II spent four months recovering from the bullet wound. During that time Marcinkus's position was further shaken by a new disaster. On 20 May 1981, Italy's fiscal police, the Guardia di Finanza, arrested Calvi at his home in Milan for illegally exporting capital through Ambrosiano's offshore network. Operating in the international money markets was, after all, one of the functions of an international banker. But under existing law Italian bankers were restricted in their international operations; to expand their foreign business they had to be artful jugglers. Calvi, perhaps, was a little too artful. The high priest of Italian private banking spent the next two months in prison, treated no better than a common criminal, atoning for his eagerness to assist the Church in her clandestine financial dealings. 
Clara Calvi's shock over her husband's arrest was not to be described. Until then she had been convinced that Roberto lived a charmed existence. Naively, she believed that the family was protected from the Italian combinazione of graft and patronage that was dragging the country into a moral crisis. It was true that because of the wave of kidnappings in Italy their children were accompanied everywhere they went by personal bodyguards. That was simply a fact of life for wealthy Italians in the 1970s and 1980s. When Carlo Calvi was ordered to report to an army intelligence unit for his military service, he was driven to the barracks in an armour-plated limousine. Their country house at Drezzo, even though perched on a hilltop, was guarded night and day by a private security force. The amount of protection -- both political and physical -- depended on one's standing: the more prominent the family, the more protection required.
Then suddenly the protection ran out. Italy and Spain were the only western industrialized nations which still maintained foreign exchange controls. This was contrary to Common Market regulations and they would soon be repealed. But for the time being the export of capital remained a criminal offence. And yet, no Italian banker existed who at some point had not sidestepped those restrictions in order to operate competitively in the international marketplace. Calvi was no exception. But he was singled out. His trial was transformed into a media circus.
In Calvi's absence Pazienza took control. He arranged for Clara to plead her husband's case with Giulio Andreotti. The 'Great Intriguer' told her that Roberto had to step aside. He said he was proposing that the Bank of Italy appoint two 'friendly' commissioners -- the financier Orazio Bagnasco, Siri's friend from Genoa, and the president of the Banco Popolare di Novara, a small provincial bank owned by Bagnasco -- to take control of the Ambrosiano.
Clara Calvi interpreted Andreotti's reaction as placing him solidly in the Casaroli camp, now preparing its light cavalry for an attack on Marcinkus. But Curial undercurrents are so subtle that it is impossible for an outsider to obtain an accurate overview. Andreotti in fact adhered to what was known as the Rome party, a third force inside the Vatican comprised of arch-Conservatives, aligned doctrinally with Opus Dei and with the Pope. Marcinkus was still useful to them, but in the end he, too, would be eased aside and replaced by other hands.
After Calvi's arrest in May 1981, Banco Occidental found itself in a liquidity bind, and in early July 1981 it went to the wall with a $100 million hole in its accounts. Fraud was alleged. Banco de Espana took over the failed Banco Occidental, acquiring 51 per cent of its capital for a symbolic one peseta. Banco Ambrosiano Holding sold its Occidental shares to Banco Vizcaya, a Spanish regional bank generally considered to be within Opus Dei's orbit, for a mere $1 million, thereby incurring a $40 million loss. Banco de Espana then turned around and sold what remained of Occidental's banking business to the same Banco Vizcaya for a nominal price. The Occidental, relieved of its bad debts, thus was reconstituted within Banco Vizcaya, which soon merged with Banco Bilbao to supplant Banesto as Spain's largest commercial bank. By coincidence, Banco de Espana's governor at the time was Alvarez Rendueles, the young banker whom Ruiz-Mateos had refused to hire.
A few days before Banco de Espana's intervention, Diego II was advised by a high-ranking official at the central bank, also an Opus Dei member, that if he covered a part of Occidental's losses with a personal guarantee -- a guarantee that both knew was uncollectable -- he would be permitted to spin Occidental's hotel division off the bank's books into a separate corporation where it would be sheltered from bankruptcy.
Occidental's hotel division owned two prestige hotels in Spain, one in Budapest, about a dozen in the Dominican Republic, several in Portugal, one in Venezuela, the Occidental Plaza in Miami, the Fairmount in San Antonio, Texas, and the Grand Hotel in Atlanta. Forewarned that an arrest warrant was on its way, Diego fled to Atlanta, where he owned a palatial estate with a fleet of luxury cars, swimming pool, baseball diamond, tennis courts and stables for thirty horses. One year later, at fifty-five years of age, he suffered a massive heart attack, but was saved by emergency surgery. Occidental Hoteles S.A., run by his son Gregorio de Diego III, became one of Spain's largest hotel chains.
Ortolani's Bafisud did not long survive Occidental's demise. It became bankrupt and was taken over by the Central Bank of Uruguay. In May 1983 what remained of Bafisud's business was sold to a Dutch bank for one peso. The president of the Uruguayan central bank was Ramon Diaz, an Opus Dei member.
1. Requisitoria of State Prosecutor Dr. Pierluigi Dell'Osso in the 1989 Banco Ambrosiano criminal proceedings, Milan, pp. 376 and 381.
2. Raw, Op. cit., p. 292.
3. At a meeting with the author on 2 December 1993, Carlo Calvi said, 'I am still convinced that my father's trial for currency violations was provoked by Licio Gelli to create a serious crisis inside the Vatican.'