Michele Sindona was born in Sicily. He studied corporate and tax law, dabbled in construction and real estate, and formed an international investment firm, through which he began to acquire interests in American and European banks. By 1964, Sindona $450-milion-dollar fortune was tangled in a matrix of investments, but it was a matter of public record that he owned 1 million shares in Franklin National Bank of New York.
In 1974, when Franklin proved insolvent due to $40 million in foreign-exchange losses, Sindona’s efforts to pay away the damage revealed that his holdings were largely illiquid. Banks in West Germany, Switzerland, and Italy joined Franklin in crashing, a phenomenon that became known as “Il Crack Sindona.”
Giorgio Ambrosoli, tasked with liquidating Sindona’s assets, found damning evidence of the financier’s criminal connections. Ambrosoli was murdered on July 12, 1979 by an American hitman whom Sindona hired. The following month, Sindona faked his own kidnapping to temporarily escape an American indictment. He went to Italy and attempted to blackmail old contacts: laundered mafia money was among the funds lost in his banks’ collapse, and Cosa Nostra wanted a refund.
The FBI apprehended Sindona on his return to the US, and in 1980, he was found guilty of fraud and perjury. Sentencing was postponed due to a failed suicide attempt in which Sindona slashed his wrists. Extradited to Italy for Ambrosoli’s murder, he was sentenced to 25 years. He ingested cyanide in his coffee on March 18, 1986. It remains unclear whether his death was murder or suicide.