Italian broker for Vatican’s London property arrested in UK
Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).
Gianluigi Torzi, the Italian businessman who brokered the final part of the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London investment property, has been arrested in the United Kingdom.
The arrest, which took place May 11 in London, was requested by an Italian judge in Rome in April.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said: “Officers from the National Extradition Unit attended an address on Campden Hill Road, W8, on Tuesday, May 11.”
“Gianluigi Torzi, 42 (16.01.79), was identified and arrested on a Trade and Cooperation Act (TACA) warrant issued in Italy on Wednesday, May 5 and certified by the National Crime Agency on Thursday, May 6.”
“He is accused in Italy of money laundering and fraud offenses.”
“Mr. Torzi appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court for an initial extradition hearing where he was remanded in custody. His next appearance is on Tuesday, May 18.”
Torzi, who has denied wrongdoing, is being investigated by Italian authorities for suspected fraudulent billing, money laundering, and other financial crimes in collaboration with three of his associates.
He is also under investigation by the Vatican for his role in facilitating the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London property on 60 Sloane Avenue in 2018. The Vatican alleges that in doing so, Torzi was part of a conspiracy to defraud the secretariat of millions of euros.
Based on the investigation, Vatican prosecutors had requested the seizure of Torzi’s U.K.-based bank accounts earlier this year. In March, a British judge reversed the action, stating that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the U.K. court.
Torzi was also arrested by the Vatican last summer and held in custody for a little more than a week on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.
At the center of the Vatican’s investigation is the scandal involving the London property at 60 Sloane Avenue, which the Secretariat of State bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.
Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.
The Vatican claims that Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.
In his ruling, British judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court sided with Torzi, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and was a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.
Torzi is one of several figures under investigation by Vatican City State prosecutors in connection with multiple financial scandals involving the Secretariat of State.
The mishandling of funds in the secretariat in recent past years has led Pope Francis to issue financial reforms for the Roman Curia, including moving investment funds from the control of the secretariat to APSA, the Vatican’s central bank.