The badly beaten and mutilated corpse of Gianmario Roveraro, one of Italy’s reputedly most pious financiers, was discovered “cut to pieces” under a motorway overpass near Parma yesterday, some two weeks after he was kidnapped while returning home from a meeting of the conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of the kidnapping and macabre murder of Mr Roveraro, a banker who had been questioned by investigators in connection with the spectacular Ä14bn ( £9.5bn) collapse of the Parmalat food empire in 2003.
He was a founder of Akros Finanziaria, a financial services group, and had helped Parmalat list its stock on the market a decade ago.
The killing recalled the murder of Roberto Calvi, the Italian financier known as “God’s Banker” for his links to the Vatican, who was found hanged from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982.
Police suspect Mr Roveraro’s kidnapping and murder was related to a business dispute over a Ä500,000 property deal.
The purportedly devout Mr Roveraro vanished on 5 July on his way from attending an evening meeting of the local Milan branch of Opus Dei, of which he, along with many other top-level Italian financiers, was a member.
Despite involvement of some its members in a series of financial scandals, Opus Dei enjoyed favour under the late Pope John Paul II, who elevated it to the privileged status of a “personal prelature” within the Church and controversially gave its Spanish founder, Josemaria Escriva, a “fast track” beatification and then canonisation as a saint.
The three arrested men were identified as Emilio Toscani, 43, from Collechio, a storekeeper; Marco Baldi, 50, a native of Bologna; and Mr Botteri, 43, a financial consultant from Parma.
Mr Botteri was quoted as saying he couldn’t recall any more about the murder. Police suspect Mr Roveraro may have been killed several days ago.
Mr Toscani led police to the financier’s body, cut up into several parts and decomposing in the summer heat, yesterday morning, police sources said.
Since 5 July, Mr Roveraro made several telephone calls within 48 hours, to his wife Silvana and to his business assistants who he asked to sell Ä1m of shares in a family company. Carabinieri paramilitary police traced the alleged gang by following the signature of public telephone cards used to make calls during ransom negotiations, the sources said. Mr Roveraro was one of 64 people under investigation in the Parmalat affair and prosecutors had asked for him to be indicted on charges of belonging to a criminal organisation conspiring in fraudulent bankruptcy.
He had been on the board of Parmalat’s finance subsidiary from 1990 to 1998.
A spokesman for Opus Dei said: “We want to express our closeness to the upset family. This death has hit Opus Dei very hard.
“Gianmario is not suffering any more now and is receiving the reward for what he was – an intelligent, gentle, noble and generous person.”