Italian judge issues arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered Vatican property deal
Rome Newsroom, Apr 12, 2021 / 10:05 am America/Denver (CNA).
An Italian magistrate has issued an arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, a broker who is under investigation due to his involvement in the Vatican’s controversial London property purchase.
Judge Corrado Cappiello signed the warrant for Torzi based on the investigation by police in Rome into his suspected fraudulent billing, money laundering, and other financial crimes in collaboration with three of his associates, the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported April 12.
Torzi is currently located in the United Kingdom and has not been served with the warrant.
The Italian broker is 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.
“It is alarming how easily Gianluigi Torzi and his collaborators managed to organize fraudulent operations,” Judge Cappiello wrote, according to the Italian newspaper.
“In addition to the criminal proceedings pending within Vatican City State for which he was recently arrested, Gianluigi Torzi, has police records for unlawful financial activities, fraud, issuing and using invoices for non-existent transactions and is also being investigated for fraudulent bankruptcy … within the Tag Communications group,” he said.
Torzi was 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.
Last month, a British judge reversed the seizure of Torzi’s accounts that had been requested by Vatican prosecutors.
Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court stated that the Vatican’s “non-disclosures and misrepresentations are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” to reverse the seizure of the assets was appropriate.
The secretariat bought the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian 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 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, Baumgartner sided with Torzi, who has denied wrongdoing, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.
Reuters reported that a separate arrest warrant states that Torzi billed the Vatican for a total 15 million euros for work that it said was not carried out. It also stated that it remains unclear whether Italian authorities will issue an international warrant for Torzi’s arrest.