Five defendants go on trial for murder of Italian financer Roberto Calvi

Five go on Five defendants including a convicted Mafia figure, went on trial Thursday for murder in the 1982 death of Italian financier Roberto Calvi, the so-called "God's banker" with Vatican links whose body was found hanging from a London bridge.

Rocks and bank notes had been stuffed in the pockets of the banker's suit, prompting speculation that Calvi, who was head of Italian bank Banco Ambrosiano, had been murdered, but the death was originally ruled a suicide.

His family pressed for further investigation, and two years ago Italian prosecutors concluded he had been slain.

Calvi was a key figure in one of modern Italy's biggest banking scandals, which involved elements of the country's power brokers _ businessmen, politicians, Masonic groups and Vatican hierarchy, the AP reports.

The banker was found dead as Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of US$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 US$250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors. The Vatican bank denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have alleged that Calvi was murdered in a ruthless Mafia vendetta, while defense lawyers claim that the financier committed suicide as Banco Ambrosiano collapsed in the fraud scandal. AM

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