An Italian businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, who had acted as an intermediary for the Holy See to acquire a luxury building in London, was arrested on Friday June 5 by Vatican authorities, reports a statement from the Holy See.
The Vatican court prosecutor has been investigating the building’s opaque shopping circuit since last summer. The Italian is suspected of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering. Torzi, detained at the premises of the Vatican gendarmerie, faces up to 12 years in prison, according to the Vatican statement.
The investment at the heart of the investigation is a building in the chic London district of Chelsea (17,000 m2 transformed into fifty luxury apartments on Sloane Avenue), an operation which could represent a total cost of 200 million euros according to an Italian newspaper.
A law governing tenders for internal expenses
A first participation was taken in the project in 2014 via a Luxembourg fund managed by the holding of an Italian businessman, Raffaele Mincione, which in the end would have made a juicy capital gain. The unfavorable financial management, via Switzerland and Luxembourg, had prompted the Vatican four years later to put an end to it by buying the entire London building, and then ceding control to another financier based in London, Gianluigi Torzi, according to elements of the investigation published by the press last year.
The Vatican justice had proceeded on 1er October to seizure of documents in the offices of the secretary of state – the heart of the Vatican government, where the Pope’s and the Financial Information Authority (AIF) ‘s bodyguard works – an independent financial policeman. One of the few episodes in this case that has been confirmed by the Vatican.
Five people, including the number two of this anti-money laundering authority and a prelate, were then “Suspended as a precaution” of their functions within the framework of the investigation, had then revealed a small poster for internal use of the Vatican gendarmerie bearing their photos and names, such as accused persons. François then separated from his loyal bodyguard and overzealous head of the Vatican gendarmerie, Domenico Giani.
At the end of November, on the plane that brought him back from a trip to Thailand and Japan, Pope Francis recognized in the press the existence of a “Scandal” corruption within the Vatican. “We did things that weren’t clean”, had regretted the sovereign pontiff. The Argentinian pope was elected in 2013 to notably bring order to the Vatican finances, an arduous reform which met resistance within certain “Dicasteries” (ministries) managing funds in a very autonomous and not very transparent manner. The Vatican unveiled a law on Monday bidding for tenders for its internal expenses, unprecedented intended to prevent corruption and better manage the resources of the Church.