Michele Sindona (Italian: [miˈkɛːle sinˈdoːna]; 8 May 1920 – 22 March 1986) was an Italian banker and convicted felon. Known in banking circles as "The Shark", [1] Sindona was a banker for the Sicilian Mafia and the Vatican. Sindona was a member of the fascist Propaganda Due (#0501), a secret Masonic lodge of the Grand Orient of Italy. He was fatally poisoned in prison while serving a life sentence for the murder of lawyer Giorgio Ambrosoli.

Michele Sindona
Sindona in 1974
Born(1920-05-08)8 May 1920
Died22 March 1986(1986-03-22) (aged 65)
Voghera, Italy
Alma materUniversity of Messina
Occupation(s)Banker, lawyer
Organization(s)Gambino crime family
Propaganda Due
Political partyChristian Democracy (Italy)
Republican Party (United States)
SpouseCaterina Sindona

Early life and education


Born into a poor family at Patti, a small comune (municipality) in the province of Messina (Sicily), to a Neapolitan father, a florist who specialized in funeral wreaths,[2] and a Sicilian mother, Sindona was educated by the Jesuits, and showed very early in his life an unusual aptitude for mathematics and economics. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Messina in 1942.



After landing on Sicily the Allied Forces gave important posts to the mafia, to reduce the influence of Communists and for them to organise the distribution of food aid.[3] Sindona began working in smuggling operations with the Mafia transporting food in trucks.[3] At the same time many American born Italian mafia members return to Italy, like Lucky Luciano. Sindona wrote, that in 1946 all worked in the black market, that within 6 months he doubled his capital like a Wall street banker and that he waited for Meyer Lansky, Jewish mobster and banker for the mafia, to give him a signal".[3]

At the beginning of the 1950s Sindona moved from Sicily to Milan, Northern Italy where he worked as a tax lawyer for rich Italians wanting to avoid paying taxes.[3] He was an accountant for companies such as Società Generale Immobiliare and SNIA Viscosa.[citation needed] At the age of 30 he founded the company Fasco AG, inventing the system of back-to-back financing.[3] His dexterity transferring money to Switzerland and Liechtenstein to avoid taxation soon became known to Mafia bosses. At the beginning of the 1950s he travelled to New York and met the Gambino family. By 1957, he had become closely associated and was chosen to manage their profits from heroin sales. According to the Mafia pentito (repentant) Francesco Marino Mannoia, Sindona laundered the proceeds of heroin trafficking for the Bontade-Spatola-Inzerillo-Gambino network. The mafiosi were determined to get their money back and would play an important role in Sindona's attempt to save his banks.[4][failed verification][clarification needed]

International banker


Within a year of being chosen by the Gambino family to manage their heroin profits, Sindona bought his first bank. At the beginning of the 1960s, Sindona was a friend of Giovanni Battista Montini, at the time archbishop of the Archdiocese of Milan and Cardinal. In 1964 Sindona made a deal with a London banker with the newly-introduced offshore Eurodollar.[3] By the time Montini became Pope Paul VI, Sindona had acquired, through his holding company Fasco, many more Italian banks, and his progress continued right up to the beginning of his association with the Vatican Bank in 1969. Huge amounts of money moved from Sindona's banks through the Vatican to Swiss banks, and he began speculating against major currencies on a large scale.[citation needed]

In 1972, Sindona's Fasco International Holding purchased a controlling interest in Long Island's Franklin National Bank from Laurence Tisch.[5] He was hailed as "the saviour of the lira" and was named "Man of the Year" in January 1974 by the US ambassador to Italy, John Volpe. But that April, a sudden stock market crash led to what is known as Il Crack Sindona ("The Sindona Bankruptcy"). The Franklin Bank's profit fell by as much as 98% compared to the previous year, and Sindona suffered a 40 million dollar loss. Consequently, he began losing most of the banks he had acquired over the previous seventeen years. On 8 October 1974 the bank was declared insolvent due to mismanagement and fraud, involving losses in foreign currency speculation and poor loan policies. Part of the losses involved Sindona's transfer of $30,000,000 of Bank funds to Europe to recover his losses.[6] Sindona became a member of the fascist Propaganda Due (#0501), a secret Masonic lodge of the Grand Orient of Italy.[7]

Ambrosoli murder, 1979


On 11 July 1979, Giorgio Ambrosoli, the lawyer who was commissioned as liquidator of Sindona's banks, was murdered in Milan by three Mafia hitmen commissioned by Sindona.[8][9]

Sindona feared that Ambrosoli would expose his manipulations in the Banca Privata Italiana case. Shortly before he was killed, the American Mafia hitman William Arico, a convicted bank robber, invoked the name of Giulio Andreotti – the influential Christian Democrat politician close to Sindona – in a threatening phone call taped by Ambrosoli.[10] Arico fell to his death while trying to escape from a federal prison in New York in 1984.[11][12] Andreotti later replied in an interview that Ambrosoli "was a person who, in Romanesque words, was looking for it".[13]

Imprisonement, 1980-1986


In 1980, Sindona was convicted[14] in the United States of 65 charges, including fraud, perjury, false bank statements and embezzlement of bank funds; his defense was provided by one of the leading American lawyers, Ivan Fisher.[15] The federal court in Manhattan, in addition to the 25-year prison sentence for the failure of the Franklin National Bank,[16] fined Sindona $207,000.[17]

While in United States federal prison, the Italian government applied for extradition so that Sindona could be present at the murder trial of Ambrosoli; this time, the request was accepted and on 25 September 1984 Sindona returned to Italy, where he was imprisoned in Voghera.[18]

On 16 March 1985, in the trial for the bankruptcy of Banca Privata Italiana, Sindona was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime of fraudulent bankruptcy.[19] The compensation for the damages was established in civil court; Sindona was sentenced to immediately pay a provisional amount of two billion lire to the liquidators of the bank and to the small shareholders who had filed a civil action lawsuit.[20]

On 18 March 1986, he was sentenced to life imprisonment as the instigator of the Ambrosoli murder.[21]

Personal life and death


Two days after his life sentence, Sindona drank a potassium cyanide coffee (likely prepared by himself) in the Voghera prison; he died in the Voghera hospital after two days in coma, on 22 March 1986.[17]

See also



  1. ^ "Web of scandal entangles P2". The Times. 27 May 1981.
  2. ^ Sindona funambolo del 900. Corrado Stajano. Libertà e giustizia. 9 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mafia und Banken (1/3) - Die Pionierzeit - Die ganze Doku". Arte (in German). 2024. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  4. ^ "Anche Antonino Giuffré nell'inchiesta Calvi". La Repubblica (in Italian). 13 October 2002.
  5. ^ Tosches 1986, p. 142.
  6. ^ "Account Settled". TIME. 7 April 1980. Archived from the original on 21 February 2005.
  7. ^ "Web of scandal entangles P2". The Times. 27 May 1981.
  8. ^ "Scandal at the Pope's Bank", Time, July 26, 1982.
  9. ^ "Andreotti says Ambrosoli 'was asking for it'". ANSA. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  10. ^ Stille, Excellent Cadavers, pp. 39-42.
  11. ^ "'God's Banker' Guilty in Milan Murder", Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1986.
  12. ^ McGill, Douglas C. (21 February 1984). "Inmate Killed in Escape is Linked to Sindona". The New York Times. p. 6. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  13. ^ ""Ambrosoli? Se l'andava cercando" - Corriere della Sera". 10 September 2010. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Convicted", The Economist, London, 5 April 1980, p. 78.
  15. ^ "Sindona goes on trial", Economist, London, 19 January 1980, p. 79. The Economist Historical Archive, 1843-2012.
  16. ^ "Mr Sindona jailed for 25 years in New York", The Times, London, 14 June 1980.
  17. ^ a b "Michele Sindona, Jailed Italian Financier, Dies of Cyanide Poisoning at 65". The New York Times. 23 March 1986.
  18. ^ Alan Friedman, "Sindona Refuses to Take Part in Trial Proceedings.", Financial Times, London, 13 December 1984.
  19. ^ "Sicilian financier jailed 12 years for fraud", The Times, London, 16 March 1985, p. 1.
  20. ^ Fabrizio Ravelli (17 March 1985). "Il processo Ambrosoli attende Sindona". la Repubblica.it Archivio.
  21. ^ Alan Friedman, "Sindona Given Life Sentence over Killing", The Financial Times, London, 19 March 1986, p. 2.