ROME – A jury on Wednesday acquitted all five defendants of murder charges in the 1982 death of Italian financier Roberto Calvi, who was known as "God's banker" for his close ties to the Vatican.
Calvi's body was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge, with rocks and cash stuffed into his suit. The death was first ruled a suicide by London police, but Calvi's family pressed for further investigation and eventually Italian prosecutors brought murder charges against the five defendants.
None of the defendants was in the high-security courtroom on the outskirts of Rome when the judge read the verdict, reached after 1 1/2 days of deliberation.
"Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for justice," said Renato Borzone, a lawyer for one defendant, businessman Flavio Carboni.
Prosecutors had asked for life sentences for four defendants, but said a fifth should be acquitted for insufficient evidence. They alleged that one of the five defendants, Giuseppe "Pippo" Calo, ordered Calvi killed.
"The evidence was rather weak," said one of Calo's lawyers, Massimo Amoroso.
Prosecutors believe that Calvi was laundering money for the Mafia. They allege Calo ordered the murder because mob bosses thought the banker had appropriated some of the money and were afraid he would talk in the wake of the scandal that overwhelmed his bank.
Calo, nicknamed Cosa Nostra's "cashier" by the Italian media for his alleged laundering of mob money, was convicted years ago of Mafia charges unconnected to Calvi's death. He is serving his sentence and watched the verdict from a video.
The other defendants are businessman Ernesto Diotallevi, Calvi's driver and bodyguard Silvano Vittor and Carboni's Austrian ex-girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig.
Prosecutors asked that Kleinszig be acquitted. They alleged that the others conspired to deliver Calvi to the people who killed him.
Defense lawyers have cited the initial assessment by British forensic experts that the banker killed himself, and said that even a consultant for the prosecution had indicated there were no elements suggesting foul play in the case.
New forensic tests in 2003 conducted on Calvi's shoes and clothing found no signs that the banker had climbed the scaffolding and indicated that he had been killed elsewhere.
Calvi was found dead as his Banco Ambrosiano collapsed in one of Italy's largest fraud scandals — one that also implicated the Vatican's bank.
The Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had provided to several dummy companies in Latin America.
The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans, and the Vatican's bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors but denied any wrongdoing.