Catholic News Agency

Vatican officials grant bail to London property broker

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican said Monday that officials had granted bail to the Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi who was arrested as part of a financial investigation.

Torzi played a central role in the controversial purchase of a London property development by the Secretariat of State.  

“The Office of the Vatican Promoter of Justice, following the outcome of the interrogations to which Mr. Gianluigi Torzi was subjected in the context of the investigation into the sale and purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, granted bail today,” a June 15 statement from the Holy See said. 

Torzi was arrested June 5 following questioning at the Vatican and detained in special premises at the Gendarmerie Corps barracks.

The Holy See’s statement added that the Promoter of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, and his Adjunct, Alessandro Diddi, signed the order after they had “taken note of what has been deduced in a detailed memorandum delivered by Mr. Torzi and of the numerous attached documents deemed useful for the reconstruction of the facts under investigation.” 

CNA has previously reported that Torzi acted as a commission-earning middleman for the Secretariat of State as it finalized its purchase of the London property, on which it spent approximately $300 million.

The building at 60 Sloane Avenue was bought by the secretariat in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

Torzi brokered the sale, reportedly earning 10 million euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

In a statement on the day that Torzi was detained, the Holy See said that Vatican officials had issued the arrest warrant “in relation to the well-known events connected with the sale of the London property on Sloane Avenue, which involved a network of companies in which some officials of the Secretariat of State were present.”

It added that Torzi was being charged by Vatican prosecutors with several counts of “extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering,” noting that Vatican law provides for sentences of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for such crimes.

In May, CNA reported that Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay secretariat official who oversaw investments, was appointed a director of a company owned by Torzi while the businessman was finalizing the Vatican’s purchase of the London property.

According to corporate filings, in November 2018 Tirabassi, who was responsible for managing financial investments for the secretariat, was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a company owned by Torzi and registered in Luxembourg.

Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés show that Tirabassi was appointed a director on November 23, 2018, and removed by a filing sent on December 27. At the time of his appointment as director, Tirabassis’s business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.

In May, CNA asked Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin if he was aware of the appointment, and whether he considered it appropriate for an official at the secretariat to accept such a position. CNA also asked if officials at the secretariat are generally permitted to accept such positions.

Cardinal Parolin told CNA at the time that it would not be appropriate for him to respond, “especially taking into account the ongoing legal proceedings.” 

At a November press conference, Pope Francis was asked about the London investment. While confirming that he had personally authorized raids connected to the deal in October, he emphasized that proof of corrupt or illegal activity was “not yet clear,” before concluding that “it passed what passed: a scandal,”

“They have done things that do not seem clean,” the pope said.

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