The Vatican accuses the Italian financier of the London actual property scandal

The Vatican accuses the Italian financier of the London actual property scandal

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ROME, June 5, 2020 – The Vatican's prosecutor charged Italian financier Gianluigi Torzi in connection with a poorly managed real estate business with investment property on 60 Sloane Avenue in London on Friday.

A statement by the Holy See press office late Friday evening said Torzi had been charged with various extortion, embezzlement, fraud and money laundering charges. If convicted, Torzi faces up to twelve years in prison.

Torzi was reportedly earning € 10 million for the mediation when the Vatican tried to break free of an investment partnership by buying up his former partner in the real estate company Sloane Avenue, the Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione.

The Vatican prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Torzi after interviewing him in the presence of his lawyer.

The Vatican's statement said the arrest warrant was "issued in connection with the known events relating to the purchase and sale of the London property on Sloane Avenue, which involved a network of companies involving some State Secretariat officials were present."

The statement goes on to say that Torzi is held in special facilities in the Vatican Police Barracks.

Several churchmen have been named in connection with the Sloane Avenue affair, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, currently Prefect of the Congregation for the Saints' cause. Becciu served from 2011 to 2018 as the State Institute for General Affairs in the State Secretariat – roughly the Pope's chief of staff for the Vatican – and oversaw the deal for the Secretariat.

The then Archbishop Angelo Becciu as deputy in the State Secretariat with the Gendarme captain of the Vatican, Giani Domenico, in 2012. (Alan Holdren / CNA)

Last year, the Catholic news agency reported that Becciu apparently hid approximately EUR 200 million in loans from the Vatican balance sheets by offsetting it with the value of the property on Sloane Avenue that was used to purchase the loan. Becciu has repeatedly denied misconduct and continues to serve as the prefect of the saints.

Mgr.Alberto Perlasca, who worked for Cardinal Becciu in the State Secretariat for almost ten years, was transferred from the Secretariat in 2019. He worked for several months as a prosecutor in the Apostolic Signature – the highest court in the church – until the authorities ransacked his home and office in February this year in connection with the investigation into Sloane Avenue.

Mgr. Perlasca was not the first Vatican official to be suspended in connection with the scandal.

Mgr. Mauro Carlino was head of the information and documentation office in the so-called first section of the State Secretariat, which mainly deals with questions of internal governance and operational business. Carlino was Cardinal Becciu's personal secretary for several years when Becciu served as Sostituto. Carlino was suspended along with four other officials in October last year: the former deputy to the Vatican Financial Intelligence Department, Tommaso Di Ruzza; Fabrizio Tirabassi, former investment manager in the State Secretariat; and civil servants Vincenzo Mauriello and Caterina Sansone.

All five former state officials were either sent home, released, suspended until the investigation was completed, or reassigned. Di Ruzza's mandate expired and was not renewed. Carlino and Perlasca were sent back to their home dioceses. Sansone is reportedly being reassigned within the Vatican. The suspensions of Tirabassi and Sansone were confirmed until July. At least one of the five, Mauriello, had not been interviewed at the time the Vatican announced “one-off measures” against the officials.

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