Gianluigi Torzi is an Italian businessman at the center of a Vatican real estate investment scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the purchase of a building in London.
In June of 2020, Torzi was arrested by Vatican authorities and charged with fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. He was released 10 days later after a $3 million euro bond agreement he never honored.
A new warrant for Torzi’s arrest has been issued by Italian authorities this week using information taken in part from the Vatican, and as a result, two senior officials from the Secretariat of State — Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Cardinal Secretary, and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former Sostituto (Second in Command) — have both been implicated in the London deal. From The Pillar:
The 14-page court order noted that Vatican prosecutors contend that the secretariat’s entire investment into a London property — an investment of hundreds of millions — was made outside of the department’s authority, opening up the possibility that senior curial figures, including Parolin, could be held responsible for illegal expenditures.
“From the investigations carried out by the IOR [the Vatican bank whose initial complaint against the secretariat triggered the Vatican investigation] and the office of the [Vatican] Auditor, it emerged that the acquisitions of properties for investment purposes cannot be carried out by the Secretariat of State, being reserved for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See,” Roman magistrate Corrado Cappiello wrote on Monday.
“Furthermore,” Cappiello wrote, “the investment in question does not appear in any official document sent by the Secretariat of State to the Council of the Economy and, in any case, the Secretariat of State cannot use funds received for charitable purposes in operations with a high financial risk.”
Previous reporting has established that the Secretariat of State used Peter’s Pence money and other charitable funds on deposit with two Swiss banks as collateral for 200 million euro loans. Those loans staked the secretariat’s investment in the property, through businessman Raffaele Mincione’s Athena Global Opportunities Fund.
The Secretariat of State allegedly failed to receive legally required authorization for the loan and the investment from the Vatican Council for the Economy. According to previous news reports, the then-second-in-command at the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, tried to keep the loans and investments off of Vatican ledgers, and away from scrutiny from the Secretariat for the Economy, which was then led by Cardinal George Pell.
Pell’s department, together with the Vatican’s first Auditor General, Libero Milone, detected the loans and flagged them to the Council for the Economy where they were “noted, but no action was taken,” according to a senior source at Pell’s old department.
The court order comes a month after a U.K. judge threw out an injunction freezing Torzi’s assets, which was filed on behalf of Vatican prosecutors.
In June of 2020, Becciu went on record saying that he didn’t know Torzi, and wasn’t in his position as Sostituto when the deal happened. By September, he unexpectedly resigned “both from his office as the recently-appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and from any rights appurtenant to members of the College of Cardinals.” The pope accepted his resignation without comment.
Later the same day, Italy’s L’Espresso broke a story about Becciu using Peter’s Pence funds in speculative investments managed by his brother.
Coverage of today’s news at The Pillar indicates that
Both Cardinal Parolin and Cardinal Becciu have sought to distance themselves from the London scandal. Becciu told reporters in 2019 that the deal was “accepted practice,” while a senior official at the Secretariat for the Economy said that “it may have been accepted, but that does not mean it is acceptable.”
Despite apparently authorizing Torzi’s plan for the purchase of the London building in writing, and personally intervening to pressure the IOR president to authorize a 150 million euro loan from the bank to underwrite the deal, Cardinal Parolin has said publicly that he was unaware of the details of the investments.
“The deal was rather opaque and now we are trying to clear it up,” Parolin said in October 2019.
Parolin is also notable for his pivotal role in the Vatican’s highly controversial deal with Beijing, his alleged coverup of Theodore McCarrick’s “misdeeds,” the part he played in the Knights of Malta coup, and the rumored favorite of a certain faction to become the next pope.
The question remains how the Vatican will pursue these very serious and troubling allegations. Just yesterday, CNA ran a story under the headline, “Is Cardinal Becciu Being Rehabilitated“? In it, the pope’s private visit to Becciu on Holy Thursday, in whose residence Francis offered his Mass for the day. The visit was not clandestine; to the contrary, it was reported by Vatican News. Even so, no official information about the purpose of the visit has been released.
The details of the story surrounding Parolin and Becciu and their entanglement with the London deal are much more extensive than we’ve summarized here. We encourage you to give them a full read at The Pillar.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.