ShareJune 5, 2020 The Vatican Promoter of Justice has interrogated and arrested Gianluigi Torzi in relation to the story related to the sale and purchase of the London property. The accused is charged with various episodes of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and self-laundering, crimes for which Vatican law provides for penalties of up to twelve years of imprisonment. Gianluigi Torzi is held in special premises at the barracks of the Gendarmerie Corps.
Today the Office of the Promotor of Justice of the Vatican Tribunal, at the end of the interrogation of Gianluigi Torzi, who was assisted by his trusted lawyers, issued an arrest warrant against him. The provision, signed by the Promoter of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, and his Deputy, Alessandro Diddi, "was issued in relation to the events connected with the sale and purchase of the London property on Sloane Avenue, which involved - reports the Vatican in a note - a network of companies in which some Secretariat of State officials were present. The accused is charged with various incidents of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and self-laundering, crimes for which Vatican law provides for penalties of up to twelve years of imprisonment ". At present Gianluigi Torzi is held in special premises at the barracks of the Gendarmerie Corps.
Building at n. 60 of Sloane Avenue
The building at the center of the investigation that led to the arrest of the Italian financier Gianluigi Torzi is an ancient Harrods warehouse in the exclusive Chelsea neighborhood, a stone's throw from the South Kensington Tube hub. Built in 1911, at the time it served as a warehouse for the most famous department store in the world, which still overlooks Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, not too far from Sloane Avenue, a world shopping temple and destination for 15 million visitors. per year (Omnia Omnibus Ubique, everything to everyone everywhere, is the motto of the house).
The facade of the original structure of the old warehouse in Harrods has been preserved, with elegant terracotta brick walls, which today enclose a new building, built in the nineties, characterized by large windows. The building is at number 60 on Sloane Avenue, a stone's throw from the Saatchi Gallery and the Sloane Square stop, where both the District and the Circle Line of the London Underground pass.
The building is in a very well served area: from the South Kensington stop (three Tube lines pass: the District, the Circle and the Piccadilly) you can get there in five minutes on foot, walking east. The bus passes there and in the immediate vicinity there is a London bike sharing station, sponsored by Santander. On the ground floor there are the windows, while the upper floors mix the terracotta facades, both ancient and modern, and the large windows.
The building has several entrances: the main entrance overlooks Sloane Avenue, with a reception area which leads to the internal lift and escalators, to go up to the upper floors. There are also secondary entrances on Sloane Avenue, Ixworth Place and Draycott Avenue. From the back there is access to the internal parking, with double lane, entrance and exit.
The financier Raffaele Mincione sold the building to the Vatican, which was initially considering an investment in offshore oil extraction in Angola. The Secretariat of State did not directly purchase the walls, but underwrote the shares of a fund which was headed by Mincione, Athena Capital Commodities Fund. As much as the property is valuable, according to the accusations, the Vatican would have lost a lot of money. And the restructuring plans to make it income, date at least from 2016, but require not small expenses.
Moreover, the money from the Obolo di San Pietro, which in theory should have been secured in the brick, would instead have ended up financing, again according to the accusations, a series of operations that were headed by Mincione, including the subscription of a bond issued by Luxembourg's Time and Life Sa (also owned by Mincione) and the acquisition of shares in Bpm.
The shares of the fund subscribed by the Secretariat of State at 30 September 2018 had already lost 18 million euros compared to the value of the initial investment. But the loss for Vatican finances would be far more substantial. In addition to the 18 million lost due to the depreciation of the fund's shares, the Holy See has in fact paid another 40 million euros to Mincione, in order to once again acquire the entire ownership of the building.
Not even this transaction, however subject to special attention by investigators, given the large disproportion between the value of the property (burdened by a heavy mortgage) and the price paid, did not resolve the issue. As part of the complex transaction, the financier Gianluigi Torzi, who took over to allow the Holy See to acquire ownership of the building, had kept a package of shares with voting rights of an anonymous company, Gutt Sa, involved in the passage out of hand.
Gutt ceased all activities on 5 September 2019 and was removed from the Luxembourg Register of Companies, after the dissolution of the company by the will of the sole shareholder. In the end, the Vatican had to shell out another 15 million euros to acquire ownership of the property, now in the hands of 60 Sa Ltd, registered in the Companies House in March 2019 with a pound of initial capital and the Secretariat of State as the sole shareholder . In all, according to the accusations, the Holy See paid over 350 million euros for a building that Raffaele Mincione's Time and Life had acquired in 2012 for 129 million pounds.
The Molise of London
On his Twitter account, silent since 2016, there is a photo of a mojito. Scrolling down the timeline, you will notice an appetizing plate of butterflies, with basil and bacon, and a retweet of a phrase by Bernie Sanders. Gianluigi Torzi, a Molise banker transplanted to London arrested today by the Vatican authorities on charges of extortion, fraud and embezzlement, still holds offices in family companies, including the Microspore of Larino, in the province of Campobasso, listed on the AIM and active in mineral and organic fertilizers.
Rather known in his region, where he rose to the headlines for a story related to a villa by the sea in co-ownership with the former president of the Region Paolo di Laura Frattura, Torzi is very active in the British capital. The overseas registers indicate him as director in charge of six companies: Lh Inv Uk, Jci Credit, Vita Healthy, Lighthouse Group Investments, Artlove Uk and Jci Ib.
They all have the same address, number 33 Bruton Place, in Mayfair, a stone's throw from Hyde Park. The financier, who started as a broker and then moved on to investment banking and corporate finance, recently ended up in the newspapers, as well as for the Sloane Avenue building deal, also because, according to what he himself told the press , would have been contacted by Vincenzo De Bustis in December 2018 to take care of the placement of subordinated bonds of Banca Popolare di Bari, an operation then skipped for lack of buyers.
The Molise financier, as reported by the British specialized website Law360, was sued on April 12, 2019 for commercial fraud before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales by the Roman insurance company Net Insurance, which has a shareholder base significant (among others Ibl Banca, Unicredit and Davide Serra's Algebris).
The dispute would concern a shortfall of Btp discovered by the current CEO, Andrea Battista, securities that the previous management of Net Insurance had made available on the occasion of the issue of bonds, curated by Torzi. In the context of the dispute, the accounts of the Molise financier, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on 22 May, were frozen.
It is likely that elements supporting the accusations against Torzi also came from Switzerland. The investigation would have accelerated after the Federal Office of Justice of the Confederation sent a "first part" of the documents requested by the Vatican to the Holy See, with a diplomatic note dated 30 April, which turned to Bern for assistance, as reported by the Neue Zuercher Zeitung and Adnkronos.