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Jeff Katz Obituary

Corporate investigator who rejected dubious tactics and agents to shine a light on foul play

Jeff Katz was working as a journalist when he was invited to join Kroll Associates, then rose to be head of its European operations

Michael Gillard

Thu 21 Jan 2021

Jeff Katz, who has died aged 74 from a heart attack, played a key role in changes to the corporate investigation business, first at Kroll Associates, then at Bishop International.

Long before the Leveson inquiry, and as far back as the early 1970s, there have been prosecutions in the UK for phone hacking and blagging of information involving small-time private investigators, some of them working on behalf of the press, and colourful cases of industrial espionage in the US involving so-called “dumpster diving” by PIs acting for corporate clients. As a former journalist Katz was well aware of this history and looked to move away from such dubious tactics and players.

He was an advocate of government regulation of the £250m-a-year business that has emerged in Britain over the past four decades. Rather than the world-weary private eyes of film and literature, corporate investigation involves expensive organisations dominated by lawyers, accountants, former MI6/MI5 agents and retired senior police or military officers. They prefer to be known as business intelligence providers, strategic advisers and risk or security consultants, relying on public record and legally obtained information.

Katz’s highest-profile case was a two-year Kroll investigation that he led into the death in London of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi, which undermined the official version that Calvi had hanged himself beneath Blackfriars Bridge in 1982. His family and Italian prosecutors suspected Calvi – known as “God’s banker” for the connections between Banco Ambrosiano, of which he was chairman, and the Vatican – had been murdered by the Sicilian mafia over the bank’s losses and to ensure his silence about money laundering and the secret P2 masonic lodge, part of a “deep state” network of businessmen, politicians, securocrats and mobsters. Roberto Calvi, an Italian banker whose death was investigated by Jeff Katz at Kroll Associates after he was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, London, in 1982.

Corporate investigation is most often into tracing assets, not disproving suicide. “The issue for us was usually money – not death,” Katz later wrote. A detailed forensic reconstruction, in which an actor climbed on to the original scaffolding under the bridge wearing a pair of the same shoes Calvi had worn, which were then immersed in water, suggested that Calvi could not have walked on the scaffolding. It seemed more likely he had been murdered and placed there by boat.

Mafia informants later stated Calvi had been strangled. However, the individuals identified in the investigation were acquitted of murder after a trial in Rome in 2007 on grounds of “insufficient proof”.

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