Mincione blames Vatican for London deal losses

The losses on the controversial real estate investment are the fault of the Vatican, the investment manager who sold the building at 60 Sloane Avenue to the Vatican said Monday in the Vatican City Criminal Court.

Raffaele Mincione appeared before judges for the first time in the Vatican’s financial crimes trial, which began last July, when he was one of ten people charged by prosecutors after a two-year investigation into the financial transactions of the Secretary of State.

After appearing in court on June 6, Mincione released a statement claiming that when the Vatican allowed development permission on the property to expire, while making the investment the center of an international scandal, the Vatican had harmed its own financial interests. Mincione also complained that the Holy See had kept details of his investments with him classified while accusing him of running a “scam”.

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Mincione told the court that his reputation as a finance and investment manager had been unfairly damaged by the Vatican’s investigation and prosecution, and that he had been “insulted during the [legal] trial and flayed in the papers like a criminal.”

The businessman was formally charged with embezzlement, abuse of power, fraud and money laundering on July 3 last year.

Mincione has repeatedly asserted that he acted in good faith in all his dealings with the Holy See and has filed lawsuits against the Vatican’s actions against him both United Kingdom and Swiss. Mincione also sued various media for defamation for reporting on his business dealings.

Mincione’s relationship with the Secretariat of State dates back to 2014, when the Curia Department, under then-Archbishop Angelo Becciu, invested some 200 million euros in the Athena Global Opportunities fund of Mincione. Previous reports have established that the Vatican’s investment came from lines of credit extended by two Swiss banks, BSI and Credit Suisse, against other Vatican funds held on deposit.

Mincione invested Vatican funds in a 45% stake in the London building, which was owned by another of his companies, as well as in other businesses owned or linked to him.

After Becciu’s departure from the secretariat in 2018, the Holy See parted ways with Mincione, incurring heavy financial penalties for the early withdrawal of his investments. Mincione said on Monday that if the Vatican had seen the duration of its initial investment until 2021, its returns would have been “very positive.”

Under the terms of the separation agreement, the Secretary of State purchased the remaining share of the London building, relinquished its remaining investment in the Athena Global Opportunities Fund and would have paid another €40m to Mincione via Athena, and took on a €150m mortgage on the property. The building was then sold for a loss of more than 100 million euros.

Mincione also told the court that the Vatican understood the terms of the Athena Global Opportunities fund at the time he invested in it and balanced the fund’s investment portfolio to minimize risk.

Previous reports have shown that Mincione has invested millions of Vatican funds in his own ventures and speculative investment projectsincluding the London building, which he owned through a series of interlocking holding companies in the Channel Islands.

Mincione said Monday that he had full discretion in determining how the find made investments and that he did not have to “report to the Secretariat of State” or “explain the investments.”

At the center of the Vatican lawsuit and charges against Mincione is his relationship with Gianluigi Torzi, the broker appointed by the Secretariat of State to finalize the purchase of Mincione’s London building on their behalf.

In the process of passing ownership of the building to the Vatican, Torzi created a separate class of controlling minority shares in the holding company that owned the building – transferring the majority non-voting shares to the Vatican but retaining the control actions and with it is an effective control of the building. Torzi is accused of then blackmailing the Holy See for more than 10 million euros for control of their own building. In the ongoing trial, he faces charges of various financial crimes, including money laundering and extortion.

Although Mincione has in the past downplayed his relationship with Torzi, describing them simply as “two Italians living in London”, he admitted in court on Monday that Torzi was “a person I knew and with whom I had made agreements before”, but insisted that he had played no role in recommending him to the Vatican to represent their interests and that he was “a complete stranger” to “all subsequent events between Torzi and the Secretariat of State”.

The pillar previously reported that during the period of years, the Secretary of State invested in the Athena Global Opportunities Fund, Mincione invested Vatican money in debt products marketed by Torzi, some with ties to mafia-affiliated companies. Mincione invested the Vatican’s money in one of these debts product called Sierra One bond,

Torzi, in turn, used his businesses to loan Mincione tens of millions of euros over the same period.

Mincione told the court that it was only after learning that Torzi had been deputized by the Secretariat of State that he found out about his involvement in the project, saying Torzi had “for years” had an interest in the project. London construction project.

“[Torzi said] he would be the new director of the real estate project,” Mincione told the court. “He also told me that if I did not agree to sell the property, the Vatican would create many problems for me.”

The Vatican investigation that led to the ongoing trial followed complaints from the management of a Vatican bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), after the Secretariat of State, including Cardinal secretary, Pietro Parolin, and Becciu’s successor as sostituo, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, attempted to pressure the bank into approving a loan to refinance the mortgage.

These complaints led Pope Francis to personally authorize an investigation into the financial affairs of the Secretariat of State.

In June 2020, while this investigation was still ongoing, Mincione applied to the High Court of England and Wales for a declaratory judgment against the Secretary of State, asking the judges to declare that he ” had acted in good faith” in its dealings with the Vatican. month, official Vatican media describe Mincione’s management of investments for the Secretary of State as “speculative” and a “conflict of interest”. Mincione’s attorneys argued that the Holy See was seeking to void the sale of the building at 60 Sloane Ave.

In November last year, a British judge ruled that Mincione’s trial would be suspended indefinitely due to ongoing legal proceedings in Vatican City.

A Swiss court also recently rejected an appeal by Mincione against that country’s financial authorities, who moved to seize bank accounts and assets belonging to Mincione for a total amount of 60 million euros. The funds were seized in 2021 in response to a request from Vatican authorities.

Mincione’s court appearance on Monday follows an appearance last week by Fabrizio Tiribassi, a former lay official at the Secretariat of State responsible for administering the department’s financial affairs, and Enrico Crasso, former director of investments of the secretariat. Both men are also charged with financial crimes at trial.

The court heard from Tiribassi that the decision to invest with Mincione was decided “abruptly” as an alternative to a proposed plan for the Vatican to invest in oil exploration in Angola, a plan presented by Cardinal Becciu who was previously nuncio apostolic to this country.

In memoirs to a UK court, published in 2021, Torzi accused Crasso and Tiribassi of offering him prostitutes and threatening his family when closing the property deal in London.

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