Indicted Italian financier Michele Sindona today was ordered released in his lawyer's custody under the protection of a private guard service after giving his first public account of his mysterious 10-week disappearance.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas P. Griesa made no finding on whether Sindona was kidnaped Aug. 2 as he claims or whether he staged his disappearance to avoid trial, as some law enforcement authorites say.
Sindona was scheduled to go to trial Sept. 10 on bank fraud charges involving the transfer of $45 million from the Franklin National Bank, which he controlled. The bank collapsd in the largest bank failure in u.s. history.
Sindona, 59, responded almost inaudibly at times and in broken English as his lawyer, Marvin Frankel, led him through his account of his captivity.
Sindona said he was released Oct. 16 only after he promised to give his kidnapers evidence of corruption by wealthy rightists in Italy.
His kidnapers also demanded money, said the financier, whose personal worth was once estimated at $500 million.
"I have no money," he said he told them, and offered them the evidence plus "maybe $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000," he said with the shrug of a man discussing inconsequential sums.
The story Sindona told under oath from the witness stand was similar to the account his family made public while he was missing.
Sindona gave the bare bones of his tale, but seemed to have no difficulty remembering details.
As Sindona told the story:
He was forced into a car in mid-afternoon on East 42nd Street by a blond man about 60 years old who held his right hand in his trouser pocket as though he had a pistol.
The man spoke to him in broken Italian and appeared to be a Greek.
Sindona was blindfolded and told to hold a newspaper in front of his face as the car drove through the city streets. After a short time, the car picked up speed, and after two to four hours Sindona was ordered out of the car and taken into the basement of a house.
His captors where Italian "radicals." They told him they wanted to punish him and put him on trial. They said that trial would be fairer than that he would receive in the U.S. courts.
"We started to discuss about ideology, philosophy . . . you know these crazy people," Sindona said.
He was moved to four places during his captivity, Sindona said, after pausing to count on his fingers "I think four places," he said.
He was allowed to run around the yard from time to time in at least one of the places, and once tried to run away. "They shot me," Sindona said, standing in the witness box to point to his left thigh, where he said the bullet entered from the rear and exited from the front.
Sindona has been resting in Doctors Hospital since his return, and doctors have said his wound is not inconsistent with a gunshot.
Sindona was free on $3 million bond when he disappeared. The arrangement made today by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kenney and Sindona's lawyers continues that bond with the changes that he must now be guarded around the clock by men approved by the government and he must stay in Manhattan.
Griesa said that for at least the next 24 hours Sindona must remain in his Pierre Hotel apartment. His fraud trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 26.