Fate of Propaganda Due and Its Grand Master Licio Gelli

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: The Real History of Secret Societies

By Richard Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

Italian Masonic lodge Propaganda Due, or P-2, had been in a state of decline in the latter half of the 1900s, and the situation only worsened for them after Michele Sindona, one of their key members, got involved in some very public investigations that put him at the center of conspiracies around money laundering, kidnapping, and assassination. Other members, including Licio Gelli, did not stay at their prime either.

Ancient Freemasonic symbols, including compass, square, and sword.
The P-2 had been declining rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, and the investigations on its member Michele Sindona exacerbated this, putting all major members, including Licio Gelli, in the crosshairs. (Image: F. JIMENEZ MECA/Shutterstock)

The Remnants of P-2

After P-2 member and money launderer Michele Sindona was involved in a number of cases, including murder and fraud, he was convicted of murder in 1986, and was soon thereafter found poisoned in his cell.

His investigation had actually led the Italian law enforcement agency Guardia di Finanza to “King Cobra” Licio Gelli, the mastermind behind the P-2, and the P-2 roster, which contained names of all the members of the lodge. After that, the Grand Orient Lodge tried to distance itself from the lodge. It formally expelled Gelli in 1981, and in 1982, it abolished P2 entirely. Of course, none of this did much to destroy the secret society’s thousands-strong, mostly anonymous membership.

Then in 1982, a document, “Memorandum on the Italian Situation”, allegedly created by Gelli, was unearthed, which proposed P-2 as the new administrator of the New Fascist Italian State. Its activities were to be funded by Sindona’s clandestine operations. 

But the P-2 had begun to fall after Sindona, and Roberto Calvi, P-2’s brother at the Banco Ambrosiano and Vatican Bank, fell to bankruptcy and was later murdered. 

The state of Gelli, too, was not at its prime. 

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The Survival of “King Cobra” Gelli

After his villa was raided and the P-2 roster found, Gelli first fled to Switzerland, but was arrested in 1982 in Geneva, after he tried to withdraw a large amount of money. He slipped past authorities and fled to Chile, seeking haven with his friend, dictator General Augusto Pinochet. He also had another villa in Uruguay, where P-2’s secret archive was believed to be stashed.

The Peron family tomb, where the body of Juan Peron was laid to rest.
In 1987, unknown burglars entered Argentine President Juan Peron’s crypt and fled with his hands. (Image: FC Georgio/CC BY SA 3.0/Public domain)

It was also suspected that Gelli and P-2 had been involved in the bizarre desecration of Argentine President Juan Peron’s corpse in South America. An unknown assailant had entered the Peron family crypt in 1987. They had a key with them. They then used an electric knife, or electric saw, to remove Peron’s hands. They then demanded a ransom of $8 million, but the missing hands were never returned.

Theories Behind Peron’s Missing Hands

The case of the missing hands from the Argentine President’s dead body showed clear signs of occult involvement. 

One of the theories said that Peron’s body was desecrated in order to symbolically reduce his power and influence. Yet another theory postulated that his hands were taken to create “Hands of Mystery” or “Hand of the Master Mason”, which have been connected to political power and the establishment of a new governmental power. The hand was described as a magical amulet which brought political success. It had long been rumored that P-2, or at least some of its members, had been involved in black magic. 

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Licio Gelli’s Fate

Gelli returned to Switzerland in 1987, where he was arrested again, and in the next year, extradited to Italy. This time, Gelli was returned in an armored convoy that was protected by a hundred sharpshooters. 

Gelli was accused of being involved in a plethora of crimes, including the murders of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro and journalist Carmine Pecorelli, and a series of killer bombings, which were actually crafted by P-2’s terrorist, Stefano Delle Chiaie. Gelli was only convicted in 1992 for his connection to Banco Ambrosiano, which got him an 18-year sentence, which was later reduced to 12.  

Gelli was again tried in 1994 for “conspiracy against the state” and espionage, which tacked another 17 years on to his sentence. Interestingly, he was granted house arrest merely two years later, and was back in his Tuscan villa. Somehow, he even went on to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature. 

In 1998, before a hearing on his sentence for fraud, Gelli fled again, and was soon found living on the French Riviera with $2 million worth of gold stashed in his bathroom. He was returned to Italy again, where prosecutors indicted him again in 2005 for his alleged involvement in the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano a P-2 black brother. The case, however, never came to trial, and Gelli died in 2015. 

But, was Gelli really the center of P-2? 

P-2, Giulio Andreotti, and Conspiracies

There was a question about an even more secretive lodge behind P-2. Rumors pointed to a “super-lodge” in Monaco, to which P-2 was answerable. 

Roberto Calvi’s widow had another theory, wherein she accused Italian politician Giulio Andreotti of being the real puppet master. She claimed that Gelli was just an errand boy for Andreotti. 

Nicknamed “Beelzebub” and the “Black Pope”, Andreotti was a Freemason and a Knight of Malta, and had been a long-standing member of the Christian Democrat Party. While no proof linked Andreotti directly to P-2, his deputy was a member. Andreotti was also accused of being the mastermind behind the 1979 murder of Pecorelli, but the charges didn’t stick.

Andreotti did, however, confess to knowing about a secret military organization, Gladio, which the media exposed in 1990. Gladio was a clandestine army with a secret command, and hidden arms caches. It was created to carry out sabotage and guerrilla warfare, majorly for a Soviet invasion or a communist takeover. It strongly overlapped with P-2 and other right-wing groups. 

Some believed that P-2 and other organizations were just fronts for Gladio, which was a part of a Europe-wide network of secret armies. The latter was certainly true. In Belgium, the secret army was disguised as SDR8, in Portugal as the Aginter Press Syndicate, in France as Plan Bleu, and in Switzerland as P26. These secret armies were in turn coordinated by a secret general staff called the Allied Clandestine Committee, buried deep within NATO.

Receipt for membership of Silvio Berlusconi to the Propaganda Due
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had been a part of P-2 since 1978.
(Image: Alessio from Bologna, Italia/Public domain)

Many further argued that it was the American CIA behind it all, and Gelli was a CIA asset paid to instigate false-flag terrorism, which he did via P-2. These allegations were fueled further in 2000, when Gen. Gianadelio Maletti, ex-chief of Italian military counter-intelligence and a P-2 member, claimed to have collaborated with the CIA in organizing terrorist acts in connection with Gladio. He further claimed that he had fled to South Africa in 1981 to avoid assassination, and implicated Gelli and P-2 as tools for the CIA and Gladio. Of course, Gelli and the CIA denied any such thing.

But was P-2 ever destroyed?

In the early 1990s, media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, a P-2 brother, rose, quite controversially, to power, which lasted till 2011, amidst political and financial scandals that pretty much brought down the old political body. The old King Cobra, Gelli, publicly praised Berlusconi for making P-2’s plan a reality. The true scope of P-2’s activity, and its existence, remains a question even today.

Learn more about Propaganda Due.

Common Questions about Licio Gelli and P-2

Q: What happened to P-2 during the 1980s?

After Michele Sindona was convicted for murder in 1986, many P-2 members began to spiral downwards. Sindona himself was found poisoned in his cell soon after his conviction. The Grand Orient Lodge formally expelled Licio Gelli in 1981, and in 1982, it abolished P-2 entirely, although it existed secretly even afterwards. It never really stayed prominent anymore, however, and the situation worsened as Roberto Calvi went bankrupt and then died, and Gelli fled from Italy.

Q: What did Lucio Gelli do after Sindona was convicted?

After Sindona’s conviction and subsequent death, Lucio Gelli fled to Switzerland in 1987, where he was caught and extradited to Italy. There, Gelli was accused of being involved in a series of crimes. Gelli was only convicted in 1992 for his connection to Banco Ambrosiano, which got him an 18-year sentence, which was later reduced to 12.

Q: What were some conspiracy theories concerning P-2?

There were many conspiracy theories around P-2. Many suspected that there was a “super-lodge” that presided over P-2 from Monaco. Roberto Calvi’s widow accused Giulio Andreotti, the Italian politician, of being the real puppet master. She claimed that Lucio Gelli was just an errand boy for Andreotti. Some believed that P-2 and other organizations were just fronts for Gladio, which was a part of a Europe-wide network of secret armies.

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