Three years after the Banca Privata Italiana was liquidated forcibly with debts of at least $214 million, the shadow of Italian financier Michele Sindona still looms darkly over this country's banking world.
The latest act in the Sindona saga came this week as the two managing directors of banco Di Roma, one of Italy's five largest banks, were forced to take a leave of absence pending the outcome of a judicial investigation by a Milan magistrate, of the Sindona financial empire's bankruptcy.
Banco Di Roma first became implicated in the tangled business affairs of Sindona - now living in New York - when it became known that shortly before the Banca Privata's crash, Banco Roma sought and received the Bank of Italy's approval for a $100 million rescue loan to Sindona.
But the two managing directors, Mario Barone and Giovanni Guidi, are under investigation on charges that they may have suppressed evidence regarding other aspects of the Sindoma affair.
So far, they have failed to comply with a request from the Milan investigating magistrate. Ovilio Urbisci, for a list of more than 500 depositors with top-level political and economic connections, who are said to have used foreign currency accounts at the Banca Private to export capital to the Sindona-controlled "Fina Bank" of Zurich.
Two weeks ago, Barone was arrested briefly for withholding information on this matter. He was released after assuring the magistrate that he would turn over the list, but both Barone and Guidi later claimed the list had disappeared. Late last week, their passports were seized and they were advised that charges could be filed against them soon.
In 1974, capital exportation was only a misdemeanor, and the 1976 law that made it a felony provided a grace period for earlier offenders who brought their financial holdings back into the country. Insiders thus believe that Judge Urbisci's interest in the list reflects not a desire to prosecute but a conviction that Sindona repeatedly has used his knowledge of the list's contents to obtain financing in the past and, more recently, help in delaying the extradition process begun against him in 1975.
In a television interview broadcast here almost two weeks ago. Sindona denied that he ever had helped "Italian friends to export capital" and claimed the list was an invention of Italian journalists.