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Interesting News from Italy, March, 2001
The coffin and body of a 92-year old man was stolen from the family crypt on the shores of Lago Maggiore by persons unknown. The deed was discovered in mid-March by a family caretaker assigned to place fresh flowers on the grave each Sunday. The deceased was Italy's most famous banker, a cagey Sicilian dead since last June; the body had been laid to rest in the mausoleum beneath that of his wife, Idea Socialista. Speculation has followed that extortion is the goal of the theft although no ransom has yet been demanded. In the past, the Mafia has been known to ransom stolen corpses. A prominent corporate leader has declared, "There is no limit to evil in Italy."
The investigation into the theft of the body of a famous and secretive Italian banker has continued, with the additional element of a mysterious phone call to a news agency from a group calling itself the "Unemployed Revolutionaries" taking responsibility for the deed. A ransom demand has still not been received by the family, according to police investigators, who are also considering Satanism as a motive. According to a book published in 1994, the deeply religious banker was an active member of the Frankists, a heretical Jewish sect founded in Poland in the 18th century. The author commented, "As soon as I heard the news I thought that sect members must have taken the body to keep it and worship it."
Speculation and investigation continues in the case of the missing body of a prominent Italian bank founder, removed from the family mausoleum last week. Police have received word from an anonymous claimant who says he took the corpse in its coffin as an act of retaliation for the disappointing performance of his stock portfolio, which included shares in the banking firm associated with the deceased. Although no ransom is being demanded, the claimant says he will not return the body until the stock market goes up. He is quoted as saying: "You think I'm crazy, but I'm only desperate."
A ransom demand has been received, according to unconfirmed reports published in two Italy newspapers, for the return of the stolen corpse of Italy's most famous banker. An annoyed chief police investigator declared, "This should have been kept secret but instead someone leaked the news." The request was in the form of a letter, mailed from Torino, using cut-out letters that asked for six million Swiss francs to be deposited into a specific Swiss bank account. Accompanying the letter was a polaroid photo showing the exhumed coffin of the famously elusive banker. Investigators are unsure as to why the letter was sent to an unrelated person in Rome with the same last name as the deceased instead of to a family member. The missive was mailed via special delivery on the presumed date of the crime but due to a mistake in the address was received days later than probably intended.
Townspeople are fending off police speculation that at least one of the perpetrators will turn out to be from the small town near Lago Maggiore where the banker's family estate and mausoleum are located. "We're all one family," said a woman who asked to remain anonymous. "It's impossible that anyone from our town could be involved."
The ransom letter sent to an erroneous person in Rome has led to the capture of two suspects and the recovery of the deceased banker. A fingerprint on the missive matches that of a man arrested last Saturday while placing a second, pre-arranged telephone call to the CEO of the dead man's bank. The postmark on the envelope was from small town in Piedmont, enabling police to stake out local phone booths and make the capture as the man attempted to convey ransom delivery details.
The suspect revealed the hiding place of the corpse and named a second suspect who was also arrested. Police recovered the body, hidden in a mountain hide-out in Piedmont, still in its coffin which was laid out on straw and covered with a red drape. A spokesman for the Turin police called the two men 'amateurs' and said that the two men may have acted alone. Originally it was thought that a minimum of four people would have been necessary to disinter the coffin and transport it intact to an unknown location.
Townspeople of the small town in Piedmont where the suspects live expressed their surprise and dismay, saying that nobody knew the two were friends although they were regulars at a local pub called the 'Petit Bar.' 'Now our town will get a bad reputation,' remarked a citizen.
© Nancy Lytle, 2004
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