Licio Gelli

Licio Gelli

name=Licio Gelli

caption =
birth_date=birth date and age|1919|4|21
birth_place=Pistoia, Italy
death_date =
Worshipful Master
nationality = flagicon|Italy Italian

Licio Gelli (born in Pistoia, Tuscany, April 21, 1919) is an Italian financier, chiefly known for his role in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. He was revealed in 1981 as being the Worshipful Master of the clandestine Masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2).

A Fascist volunteer

During the 1930s, Licio Gelli volunteered for the "Black Shirt" expeditionary forces sent by Mussolini to Spain in support to Francisco Francocite news | title = The Suitcase Scandalo | publisher = Newsweek | date = 1981-06-08] , and subsequently became a liaison officer between the Italian blackshirt government and the Third Reich, with contacts including Hermann Göring. He participated in the Italian Social Republic with Giorgio Almirante, founder of the neofascist Italian Social Movement (MSI).cite news | title="Giustizia, tv, ordine pubblico è finita proprio come dicevo io" | publisher=La Repubblica | date=September 28, 2003 | url= icon] cite news | title = n.a. | publisher = Associated Press | date = 1982-09-14] .

After a sales job with the Italian mattress factory Permaflex, Gelli founded his own textile and importing company.

After World War II

Gelli collaborated with American and English intelligence agencies after World War II. Gelli also joined the neofascist MSI, which gave him parliamentary immunity. In 1970, he was to arrest the President during the failed "Golpe Borghese".Fact|date=September 2007 As headmaster of Propaganda Due (P2) masonesque lodge, Gelli had ties with very high level personalities in Italy and abroad, in particular in Argentina. The Argentine Chancellor Alberto Vignes drafted with Juan Perón, who had returned from exile in 1973, a decree granting to Gelli the "Gran Cruz de la Orden del Libertador" in August 1974, as well as the honorary office of economic counsellor in the embassy of Argentina in Italy Susana Viau and Eduardo Tagliaferro, [ Carlos Bartffeld, Mason y Amigo de Massera, Fue Embajador en Yugoslavia Cuando Se Vendieron Armas a Croacia - En el mismo barco] , "Pagina 12", December 14, 1998 es icon] . According to a letter sent by Gelli to César de la Vega, a P2 member and Argentine ambassador to the UNESCO, Gelli commissioned P2 member Federico Carlos Barttfeld to be transferred from the consulate of Hamburg to the Argentine embassy in Rome . Licio Gelli was also named plenipotentiary minister for cultural affairs in the Argentine embassy in Italy, thus providing him with diplomatic immunity . He had four diplomatic passports issued by Argentina, and has been charged in Argentina of falsification of official documents .

As headmaster of Propaganda Due, Gelli allegedly assumed a major role in Gladio's "strategy of tension" in Italy, starting with the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing. Gladio was a clandestine "stay-behind" operation sponsored by the CIA and NATO to counter communist influence in Western European countries, which has been involved in terrorist false flags operations in Italy. Daniele Ganser, "NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe" Frank Cass Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7146-8500-3 (a quick [ resume available here] )] [ Gianni Flamini, "Il partito del golpe: Le strategie della tensione e del terrore dal primo centrosinistra organico al sequestro Moro", Italo Bovolenta Editore (1981-84), four tomes, 1,882 pages] [René Monzat, "Enquêtes sur la droite extrême", Le Monde-éditions, 1992 (in particular chapter VII, titled "Gladio, OTAN et loge P2 – La stratégie de la tension") ] [Arthur E. Rowse, "Gladio: The Secret U.S. War to Subvert Italian Democracy" in "Covert Action" #49, Summer of 1994. [] ]

In 1990, a report on RAI Television alleged that the CIA had paid Licio Gelli to foment terrorist activities in Italy [ "CIA backed Italy terrorism during '70s, report claims," "Daily Breeze", July 23, 1990 en icon] . Following this report, which also claimed that the CIA had been involved in the assassination of the Swedish Prime minister Olaf Palme, then President Francesco Cossiga requested the opening of investigations, while the CIA itself officially denied these allegations [ "CIA Denies Report", "The Washington Post", July 24, 1990 en icon] Critics have dismissed the RAI report as a fraud because of the inclusion of testimonies from controversial Richard Brenneke, who had claimed to be a former CIA agent and made several declarations concerning the October surprise conspiracy. Brenneke's background was also investigated by a U.S. Senate subcommittee, which dismissed Brenneke's claims of CIA employment. [cite news | title = Zero-One's spy tale sends Italy spinning in ever decreasing circles | publisher = The Sunday Times | date = 1990-07-29] On November 23, 1995, the Court of Cassation (Corte di Cassazione) issued a sentence for investigation diversion to Licio Gelli (headmaster of P2), Francesco Pazienza and to SISMI officers Pietro Musumeci and Giuseppe relation to the Bologna Massacre.

The 1981 raid & the P2 list

Licio Gelli's downfall started with the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, which led to a 1981 police raid on his villa and the discovery of the P2 covert lodge. On March 17, 1981, a police raid on his villa in Arezzo, led to the discovery of a famous list of 962 persons, composed of Italian military officers and civil servants involved in Propaganda Due (aka "P2"), a clandestine lodge expelled from the Grande Oriente d'Italia Masonic organization [ Boston Globe, June 14, 1981 ] . The list also included all the heads of all three secret intelligence services, 48 MPs, industrialists, journalists and wealthy people such as the former premier Silvio Berlusconi (at the time not yet in politics) and Vittorio Emanuele, the Savoy pretender to the Italian throne. Police also discovered a "piano di rinascita democratica" ("plan of democratic rebirth"), which detailed a strategy to install an authoritarian government in Italy.

The national scandal that ensued was quite thrilling, given that most of the most delicate charges of the Republic were ruled by Gelli's affiliates. A Parliamentary Commission, directed by Tina Anselmi (of the Christian Democratic party), found no evidence of crimes, but in 1981, the Parliament issued a law banning secret associations in Italy. Gelli was expelled from the "GOI" freemasonry in October 31, 1981, while the P2 scandal provoked the fall of Arnaldo Forlani's cabinet in June 1981 "Leader of Italian Scandal Arrested Trying to Get Cash in Swiss Bank," "The Miami Herald", September 15, 1982 en icon]

The P2 lodge did undoubtedly have a certain power in Italy, given the public prominence of its members, and many observers still now consider it to be extremely strong. Many people today famous in Italy (starting from the top TV anchor-man Maurizio Costanzo) come from P2. One of those associated with P2 was presumed to be Michele Sindona, a banker with quite clear connections to the Mafia. In 1972, Sindona purchased controlling interest in Long Island's Franklin National Bank. Two years later, the bank collapsed. [cite news | title=Sindona guilty of bank fraud | publisher=Time magazine | date=April 7, 1980 | url=,10987,921970,00.htmlen icon ] Convicted in 1980 in the US, "mysterious Michele" was extradited to Italy. Two years later, he was poisoned in his cell while serving a life sentence. [ cite news | title=Who killed Calvi? | publisher=The Guardian | date=December 9, 2003 | url=,3858,4813656-111093,00.htmlen icon] [cite news | title=El poder en el mundo después de la "tangente" | publisher=Clarín | date=May 23, 1996 | url= icon ] The P2 membership list was authenticated, with a few exceptions, by a 1984 Parliamentary Report "Italian Panel Reports on Secret Lodge," "The Boston Globe", July 4, 1984 en icon] .

On the run, Licio Gelli escaped to Switzerland, where he was arrested on September 13, 1982, trying to withdraw tens of millions of dollars in Geneva . Detained in the modern Champ-Dollon Prison near Geneva, he managed to escape [cite news | title = Scandal Figure Fled With Help of Warden | publisher = The Miami Herald | date = 1983-08-13] and then fled to South America for four years. In 1984, Jorge Vargas, the secretary general of the "Union Nacionalista de Chile" (UNACH, Nationalist Union of Chile, a short-lived National Socialist party Franz Pfeiifer R., [ Memorias de treinta años II.] (written by a former MNRS member) es icon] ) and former member of the "Movimiento Revolucionario Nacional Sindicalista" (National-Syndicalist Revolutionary Movement ) declared to "La Tercera de la Hora" that Gelli was then in Chile [ "Gelli en Chile, dice diario", "El Nuevo Herald" (Miami), July 30, 1984 es icon] .

Finally, he rendered himself in 1987 in Switzerland to investigative judge Jean-Pierre Trembley [ "Ex-head of Secret Masonic Lodge, Licio Gelli, Surrenders to Judge", The Seattle Times, 21 September 1987 en icon] . He was wanted in connection with the 1982 collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano "Italian Bank Scam Fugitive Surrenders in Switzerland", "Philadelphia Daily News", September 21, 1987 en icon] , and on charges of subversive association in connection with the 1980 Bologna railway station bombing, which killed 85 people [ "Gelli, Fugitive Italian Financier, Gives Himself Up in Switzerland," "The Philadelphia Inquirer", September 22, 1987 en icon] .

He was sentenced to two months in prison in Switzerland [ "Swiss Court Jails Italian Financier", "The Washington Post", December 23, 1987 en icon] , while an Italian court in Florence sentenced him on December 15, 1987, "in absentia", to 8 years in prison on charges of financing right-wing terrorist activity in Tuscany in the 1970s "Terrorism Conviction," "Newsday" (Melville, NY), December 16, 1987 en icon] . Gelli had already been sentenced "in absentia" to 14 months in jail by a court in San Remo for illegally exporting money from Italy .

Extradition to Italy and trials

Switzerland eventually agreed to extradite him to Italy, but only on financial charges stemming from the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano. Gelli's extradition in February 1988 requested a high-level security apparatus, including 100 sharpshooters, decoy cars, a train, roadblocks and two armored cars to transfer him to Italy [ "Conspiracy suspect extradited Gelli shipped to Italy amid tight security," "The Orange County Register", February 18, 1988 en icon] . In July 1988, he was absolved by a Bologna court on charges of subversive association, but was presented with a 5-year prison term for slander, having side-tracked the investigation into the 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station. Stipulations from his extradition prevented him from serving time however. [cite news | title = Four Convicted Of Mass Murder In Italian Bombing That Killed 85 | publisher = Associated Press | date = 1988-07-11] [cite news | title = Court issues sentences in Bologna train bombing | publisher = United Press International | date = 1988-07-11] Two years later, an appeals court threw out Gelli's slander conviction. [cite news | title = Appeals Court Throws Out Bologna Bombing Convictions | publisher = Associated Press | date = 1990-07-19] A retrial was ordered in October 1993. [cite news | title = Second Appeals Trial Begins for Train Station Bombing | publisher = Associated Press | date = 1993-10-11]

Licio Gelli was sentenced in 1992 to 18 years and 6 months of prison after being found guilty of fraud concerning the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano in 1982 (a "black hole" of $1.4 billion was found). Vatican's bank, the "Istituto per le Opere di Religione", main share-holder of the Banco Ambrosiano, had in return a "black hole" of $250 million. This sentence was reduced by the Court of Appeal to 12 years.

1992 also saw the beginning of the trial against 16 members of the P2 Masonic Lodge, which included charges of conspiracy against the state, espionage, and the revelation of state secrets. [cite news | title = P2 masonic lodge goes on trial for conspiracy | publisher = The Independent | date = 1992-10-13] In April 1994, Gelli received a 17-year sentence for divulging state secrets and slandering the investigation, while the court threw out that charge that P2 members conspired against the state [cite news | title = Berlusconi gets speakers elected | publisher = The Guardian | date = 1994-04-18] ; Gelli's sentence was reduced, and he was placed under house arrest two years later. [cite news | title = Grandmaster of Italian P2 lodge arrested | publisher = Agence France Press | date = 1998-09-10]

In April 1998, the Court of Cassation confirmed a 12 year sentence for the Ambrosiano crash "Top Italian fugitive Licio Gelli arrested in France," Associated Press, September 10, 1998 en icon] . He then disappeared on the eve of being imprisoned, in May 1998, while being under house arrest in his mansion near Arezzo . His disappearance was strongly suspected to be the result of being forewarned. Then, finally he was arrested at the French Riviera in Cannes.

Two motions of no confidence were deposed by the right-wing opposition (the Northern League and the ex-Christian Democratic splinter groups CDU-CDR), against the Justice Minister, Giovanni Maria Flick, and the Interior Minister, Giorgio Napolitano, stating that Gelli had benefited from accomplices helping him in his escape. It also made references to secret negotiations which would have allowed him to reappear without going to prison. But the two ministers won the confidence vote [ "Italian justice and interior ministers win confidence vote," ANSA, May 29, 1998 en icon]

Police found in his villa $2M worth in gold ingots. [ cite news | title=Pots of Gold | publisher=BBC News | date=September 14, 1998 | url= icon] [cite news | title=Gelli deported back to Italy | publisher=BBC News | date=October 16, 1998 | url= icon ]

A few years after the Ambrosiano scandal, many suspects pointed toward Gelli with reference to his possible involvement in the murder of the Milanese banker Roberto Calvi, aka "God's banker", who had been jailed in the wake of the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano. On July 19, 2005, Gelli was formally indicted by Roman Magistrates for the murder of Roberto Calvi, along with former Mafia boss Giuseppe Calò (aka "Pippo Calò"), businessmen Ernesto Diotallevi and Flavio Carboni, and the latter's girlfriend, Manuela Kleinszig. Gelli, in his statement before the court, blamed figures connected with Calvi's work financing the Polish Solidarity movement, allegedly on behalf of the Vatican. He is accused of having provoked Calvi's death in order to punish him for having embezzled money owed to him and the Mafia. The Mafia also wanted to prevent Calvi from revealing how the bank had been used for money laundering.

Gelli has been implicated in Aldo Moro's murder, since the Italian chief of intelligence, accused of negligence, was a "piduista" (P2 member).

Connections to Argentina's military junta

A fugitive to Argentina for various years, Licio Gelli publicly declared, on repeated occasions, that he was a close friend of Argentina's leader Juan Peron; although no confirmation ever came from South America; and often affirmed, without ever explicitly explaining why, that this friendship was of real importance for Italy. Several members of the Argentine military junta have been found to be P2 members, such as Raúl Alberto Lastiri, Argentina's interim president from July 13, 1973 until October 12, 1973, Emilio Massera, part of Jorge Videla's military junta from 1976 to 1978, or José López Rega, the infamous founder of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance ("Triple A").In the year 2007, authors David Cox and Damian Nabot published a book called Peron's Second Death in which they investigated Gelli's links to the Argentine military dictatorship. The book published by Planeta established that Gelli was involved in the cutting of Peron's hands. The book uncovers sophisticated masonic codes which were reportedly used by Gelli, and ritual practiced on the embalmed body of Juan Peron.

2003 interview

In 2003, Gelli declared to "La Repubblica", in reference to the P2 "democratic rebirth plan", that it seemed it was being implemented by Silvio Berlusconi:cquote|Every morning I speak to my conscience and the dialogue calms me down. I look at the country, read the newspaper, and think: "All is becoming a reality little by little, piece by piece. To be truthful, I should have had the copyright to it. Justice, TV, public order. I wrote about this thirty years ago... Berlusconi is an extraordinary man, a man of action. This is what Italy needs: not a man of words, but a man of action.

He talked of many Italian politicians, among whom Fabrizio Cicchitto ("I know him well: "è bravo, preparato"); the "program of reform of justice? that was my plan!"; the reorganization of the TV network, "that's good"...


In December 2007 Licio Gelli signed a life rights agreement with New York based producer Gabor Harrach. The movie (working title 'Conspirator') is in development.


In 1996, Gelli was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.


See also

*Propaganda Due
*Strategy of tension
*Operation Gladio
*Dirty War

External links

* [ Site of Italian newspaper "Il Piave" where Gelli writes regularly]
* [ The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) on 'Conspirator: The Story of Licio Gelli']
* [ On-camera interview with Licio Gelli] Italy, October 13th, 2006

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