Licio Gelli, freemason linked to conspiracies, dies

Licio Gelli, the mastermind behind a notorious Italian masonic lodge with links to some of Italy’s biggest scandals of the 20th century, has died at the age of 96.

Gelli was at the “grandmaster” of the shadowy Propaganda Two (P2), whose activities were exposed in 1981 and which was accused of conspiring with right-wing extremists and the mafia to undermine Italian governments.

Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in jail for fraud linked to the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano whose boss, Roberto Calvi — known as “God’s banker” because of his links to the Vatican — was found hanged under a bridge in London in 1982. However, he served little time behind bars.

He was also found guilty of obstructing justice during police investigations into an explosion at Bologna train station in 1980 in which 85 people were killed. He later escaped from house arrest and fled to Switzerland.

In 1995, a judge linked Gelli with a 1970 plot to instigate a military coup in Italy, but the case was dropped because it was outside the statute of limitations.

The P2 was also accused of attempting to halt efforts to save former prime minister Aldo Moro, who was murdered by the Red Brigades leftist group in 1978 after being held hostage for 55 days.

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