ROME, 5 June 2020 – Vatican prosecutors charged Italian financier Gianluigi Torzi on Friday, in connection with a badly mismanaged real estate deal involving investment property located at 60 Sloane Avenue in London.
A statement late Friday evening from the press office of the Holy See said Torzi has been charged with various counts of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money-laundering. Torzi faces up to twelve years in prison, if convicted.
Torzi reportedly made €10 million for acting as go-between when the Vatican attempted to extricate itself from an investment partnership by buying out its erstwhile partner in the Sloane Avenue property venture, Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione.
The Vatican prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Torzi after questioning him in the presence of his legal counsel.
The Vatican statement said the warrant “was issued in relation to the known events related to purchase and 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.”
The statement went on to say that Torzi is being held in special facilities inside the Vatican police barracks.
Several churchmen have been named in connection with the Sloane Avenue affair, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, currently the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Becciu served from 2011 to 2018 as sostituto for general affairs in the Secretariat of State – roughly the pope’s chief of staff for the Vatican – and oversaw the deal for the secretariat.
Last year, the Catholic News Agency reported that Becciu appeared to have obscured some €200 million in loans from the Vatican balance sheets, by offsetting them against the value of the Sloane Avenue property the loan money was used to purchase. Becciu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and continues to serve as prefect of Saints.
Mgr Alberto Perlasca, who served under Cardinal Becciu in the Secretariat of State for almost ten years, was transferred out of the Secretariat in 2019. He worked for several months as a prosecutor in the Apostolic Signatura – the Church’s highest court – until authorities searched his home and office in February of this year, in connection with the Sloane Avenue investigation.
Mgr Perlasca was not the first Vatican official to be suspended in connection with the scandal.
Mgr Mauro Carlino served as the head of the Information and Documentation Office in the so-called First Section of the Secretariat of State, which mostly handles matters pertaining to internal governance and operations. Carlino was Cardinal Becciu’s personal secretary for several years when Becciu was serving as sostituto. Carlino was suspended in October of last year, along with four other officials: the former second-in-command at the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit, Tommaso Di Ruzza; Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former investment manager in the Secretariat of State; and State staffers Vincenzo Mauriello and Caterina Sansone.
All five former State officials have either been sent home, let go, confirmed in their suspensions pending completion of investigation, or reassigned. Di Ruzza’s mandate expired and was not renewed. Carlino and Perlasca were sent back to their home dioceses. Sansone is reportedly reassigned within the Vatican. Tirabassi’s and Sansone’s suspensions have been confirmed until July. At least one of the five, Mauriello, had not been interviewed at the time the Vatican announced “individual measures” against the officials.