New York Times
May 31, 1981 - Front page
Link 500 in Italy
To Masonic Unit
By HENRY TANNER
Special to The New York Times
ROME, May 30 Parliament has received records reportedly showing that about 500 Italians paid membership dues to a Masonic lodge that is at the center of a scandal that brought down the Government this week.
The bookkeeping records are reported to show also that dozens of the people involved received large payments from Licio Gelli, grandmaster of the illegally secret lodge, for unstated purposes.
The new documentation is said to include receipts with names, account numbers, payment dates and signatures. It is regarded by prosecutors as an important new element in the deepening scandal over the lodge because many of the 953 people who appeared on a first membership list denied that they ever were members. Many of the denials have now become untenable, according to sources in Parliament.
The scandal brought down the Government of Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani, and its widening implications are making it difficult for the four parties of the governing coalition to find a solution to the crises. Mr. Forlani was asked by President Sandro Pertini two days ago to try to form a new government, but his chances of success appear to be decreasing daily.
Mr. Forlani, though not personally implicated in the affair, has suffered because it is becoming increasingly evident that he underestimated the political implications of the scandal when the first evidence was sent to him by investigating magistrates in March.
Opposition members of Parliament have accused Mr. Forlani of having ignored the evidence for two months until press reports generated political pressure on him in Parliament.
The political ramifications of the affair are becoming increasingly complicated as more details about Mr. Gelli and his associates are being unearthed.
Mr. Gelli is a declared Fascist who fought with the Italian Blackshirt Division in Spain and was among the last Fascists to hold out with Mussolini in northern Italy at the end of the war. In 1977 he is reported to have declared himself "a lifelong anti-Communist."
Some of the high military officers who are members of the Masonic lodge, called Propaganda Due, or P-2, are also known to belong to the far right.
Some newspapers, including the conservative Giornale Nuovo of Milan, have charged that the scandal was brought into the open by left-leaning magistrates and then magnified by the Italian press "because the Communists wanted it."
Leftist newspapers, including the extreme-leftist Paese Sera of Rome, have tended to describe the Gelli group as part of an international operation conducted by Freemasons and directed from the United States.
But this description has been spoiled by reports that Mr. Gelli, who had acted as an economic adviser and negotiator for the Argentine Government, frequently traveled to Bucharest and concluded profitable deals with Rumanian state industry both for Argentina and for his own textile business. There are also reports that he had business contacts with Libya.
It has been reported, moreover, that in the last few months of the war Mr. Gelli, though having been part of Mussolini's last stand, established contacts with Communist or other leftist partisan groups in Tuscany and that he was cleared by an anti-Fascist commission after the war.
To add to the confusion, Mr. Gelli was accused by Mino Pecorelli in a newsletter of "working both sides of the street." Mr. Pecorelli was on Mr. Gelli's payroll, and the newsletter had been founded and financed by Mr. Gelli.
Mr. Pecorelli was killed soon after his apparent break with Mr. Gelli in 1979. One of Mr. Gelli's lodge members, Col Antonio Viezzer, once head of SID, a now dissolved government intelligence service, was arrested last week on suspicion of involvement in Mr. Pecorelli's killing. Mr. Gelli is reported by the police to be in hiding, probably abroad.
In the latest developments two leading commentators and news executives of the state-controlled radio network, RAI, Gustavo Selva and Franco Colomeo, have asked for temporary suspension from their jobs after bitter discussions within the network. Both were on the original membership list of the lodge, but both have denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. Selva is a major figure in the Christian Democratic Party. He was to be his party's candidate for Mayor of Rome in the local election next month.
The Under Secretary of Defense in Mr. Forlani's caretaker Government, Pasquale Banira; resigned last night. His name appeared in the bookkeeping records sent to Parliament.
The police gave the documentation to the so-called Sindona Commission of Parliament. The commission has been put in overall charge of the investigation because it was Mr. Gelli's alleged link to Michele Sindona, the Italian financier who is now in jail in New York, that caused the case to come to light in March.