In two long articles, the Vatican news site has announced the upcoming trial of the people suspected of committing financial fraud concerning a London building. The incident has regularly been in the news for two years. With the preliminary investigation completed, the first hearing will be held on July 27.
The case, which began in 2013, concerns a building on Sloane Avenue in London's Chelsea district. A Luxembourg fund was used to acquire a stake in this building transformed into luxury apartments. At that time, the Secretary of State invested $200 million in the Athena Capital Global Opportunities fund of Raffaele Mincione.
In 2018, due to management irregularities, the Vatican decided to buy back the building, with considerable losses, evaporated in intermediary channels. The amount concerned was about several hundred million euros, according to some sources.
This buyout would be carried out by a financial intermediary, Gianluigi Torzi, who had reached an agreement with Raffaele Mincione. Two other characters then intervened, Enrico Crasso and Fabrizio Tirabassi, who would take advantage of internal complicity in the Vatican to carry out a fraudulent operation.
The Secretary of State would have to pay an additional 15 million euros to finally obtain control of the building.
The Financial Information Authority (AIF, which has since become AISF) is also in the hot seat because it would have known about the anomalies in real time and failed to make the necessary decisions.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former deputy of the Secretary of State, is accused of various interference to cover up irregularities.
He is also targeted for payments made by the Secretary of State to Cecilia Marogna's company in the amount of 575,000 euros. The investigation revealed that these sums “were used, almost entirely, to make purchases incompatible and therefore not justifiable with the corporate purpose of this company.”
Finally, he is accused of having financed his brother Antonino’s cooperative with 600,000 euros from the Italian Bishops’ Conference and 225,000 euros from funds belonging to the Secretariat of State.
The president of the Vatican City Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, has ordered the indictment of ten people at the request of the Promoter of Justice. The following will be tried:
René Brülhart, former president of the AIF; Bishop Mauro Carlino, former secretary of the Substitute of the Secretariat of State; Enrico Crasso, decades-long manager of the investments of the Secretariat of State; Tommaso Di Ruzza, former director of AIF; Cecilia Marogna, who received considerable sums from the Secretariat of State for carrying out intelligence activities; Raffaele Mincione, financial broker; Nicola Squillace, lawyer involved in the negotiations; Fabrizio Tirabassi, employee of the Administrative Office of the Secretariat of State; Gianluigi Torzi, financial broker.
Finally Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who declared himself ‘”the victim of a conspiracy.” He added that “the moment of clarification is approaching, and the Tribunal will be able to note the absolutely false character of the accusations.”
René Brülhart, for his part, declared that “the case constitutes a procedural error” which will be clarified, affirming that he has always exercised his functions and duties “with correctness, loyalty, and in the exclusive interest of the Holy See and the organs which represent it.”
Considering the 500 pages extracted from the court's request published by the Vatican, summarized in two very detailed articles by Vatican news, it appears that the Holy See wants to make this trial a showcase of its new financial transparency, and show that recent criticisms made by Moneyval, in particular those which pointed out that “the investigations are too long, their results, modest, and at the end of the day, there is no real deterrence,” belong to the past.