Italian Opus Dei banker savagely murdered

An Italian banker and former Olympic pole-vaulter who had been implicated in Europe's largest corporate scandal was savagely murdered on Friday having apparently been kidnapped coming home from an Opus Dei meeting.

The Australian reports that the body of Gianmario Roveraro, 70, had been chopped into pieces and hidden in a hut beneath a motorway bridge about 30km from Parma.

Police said three men had been charged over the crime but a limited confession by the alleged ringleader opened the way for a flood of speculation.

Mr Roveraro had been questioned in an inquiry into the collapse and fraudulent bankruptcy of the food and dairy conglomerate Parmalat, which is based in Parma. In 2003 Parmalat collapsed with A$23.6 billion (14 billion euro) in debt - Europe's largest corporate failure.

Mr Roveraro, who had helped Parmalat to list its shares on the stock market a decade ago, was last seen on 5 July at a Opus Dei meeting in Milan.

While some media reports said Mr Roveraro was a "supernumerary" or member of Opus Dei, police have made no link between his disappearance and Opus Dei.

The speed of the arrests suggested that police had already followed leads concerned with his financial activities.

Luciano Garofano, the chief of the police squad that found the body, said: "We are dealing here with a particularly savage murder." The alleged ringleader of those arrested was Filippo Botteri, 43, described as a former financial consultant from Parma who allegedly had had dealings with Mr Roveraro.

Police said he had confessed to the kidnap and murder but had refused to reveal a motive. He had told investigators he had suffered a memory loss: "Don't ask me any more questions, I don't remember a thing."

The news magazine Panorama headlined its report "The Roveraro Code," saying the case involved "rivers of money, opaque interests and shady figures". Mr Roveraro was the founder of Akros Finanziaria, a financial services group.

The magistrates leading the inquiry said they were also looking into his interests in companies registered in Lugano and London and the collapse of an Austrian high-risk investment firm he had helped set up.

On the day of his disappearance Mr Roveraro, who had grown-up children, told his wife, Silvana, he would be back at his Milan flat in the evening. Instead he telephoned to say he was abroad, in a "German-speaking country", and she would "soon have news."

Alarmed by this behaviour, Ms Roveraro contacted police, who began an investigation. His business colleagues said they later received a suspicious request from him by fax, purportedly from Switzerland, asking them to release 1 million euro.

Police said they were investigating whether the kidnap gang had used sophisticated technology to make it appear that both the phone call and the money request had come from abroad when in fact the murdered banker had never left Parma.

Pippo Corigliano, spokesman for Opus Dei in Italy, said: "We are close to the family at this time and we respect their grief. We are praying for Gianmario, whom God will surely reward for his goodness and kindness."

Opus Dei financier brutally executed (The Australian 24/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Parmalat (Corporate)
Opus Dei

Pope urges Opus Dei students to share faith (CathNews, 11/4/06)

Secretive Opus Dei honours banker who was cut up with a chainsaw (The Times, 23/7/06)

24 Jul 2006