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High on the hog: Mincione hocks Whole Foods ham holding

The Italian financier Raffaele Mincione will find out next month if he will face renewed charges of embezzlement, fraud, and related crimes in Vatican City.

But away from fallout of the infamous London property deal, Mincione has salted away some cash in the larder; his company will be left high on the hog as it sells a high-end prosciutto distributor it acquired last year.

Proscuitto di Parma and Prosciutto San Daniele in the deli case of a Whole Foods Market. Credit: JD Flynn

According to stock exchange filings and reported by the website Just-Food, the businessman’s company, WRM Group, has agreed to sell the King’s Group, whole-hog, for 82 million euros — more than double what the company invested to acquire it last year.

Before the company is sold, Catholics watching the Vatican finance scandal and wanting a taste of the action can sample Mincione’s meat — the company is an exclusive supplier of Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP and Prosciutto di Parma DOP to Whole Foods Market.

Principe’s Prosciutto San Daniele is among the ham products sold by Rafaele Mincione’s company at Whole Foods Markets. Credit: JD Flynn

The WRM Group, which according to its website “adopts a value-oriented investment strategy in opportunistic distressed and event-driven situations,” snapped up ownership last year of Kipre Group, an umbrella company for Parma ham brands including King’s and its subsidiary brands, for some 40 million euros, while Kipre was subject to a court-ordered restructuring.

Mincione’s double-the-money sale of King’s, part of Kipre, to the Brazilian company JBS includes four production sites in Italy as well as a dedicated meat-slicing plant in New Jersey.

Mincione’s effort to fatten up the ham company has netted the businessman in a tidy profit. But the deal won’t cure Mincione’s legal problems.

To Catholic news-watchers, Mincione and his company, WRM Group, are best known for the complicated 2018 sale of a building at 60 Sloane Ave., London, to the Vatican Secretariat of State. The building, a former car showroom for Harrods, the ritzy department store, posted wildly fluctuating values as it changed hands over the years.

Among the web of characters surrounding the deal, 10 were indicted, including Mincione, in July of this year.

Mincone bought the London building for approximately 150 million euros in 2012. Two years later, through its investments with the businessman, the Secretariat of State took a 45% share of the building for a price assuming a total value of 400 million. Four years later, the Vatican paid a total of some 350 million euros for full ownership of the building, which it is expected to sell again soon, for a loss of more than 100 million euros.

Last year, as Vatican prosecutors expanded their investigation into the secretariat’s finances, Mincione and WRM filed lawsuits against the Holy See’s Secretariat of State in London, asking a UK court to rule they had acted in good faith in their dealings with the Vatican.

A judge ruled last month that, although Mincone’s suit was filed against the Secretariat of State, the real target of his claims is the Vatican’s Office of the Promoter of Justice, which charged Mincione with a series of financial crimes in July. The UK judge deferred the lawsuit indefinitely, until there is “a material change of circumstances”.

Meanwhile, in the Vatican, after pre-trial hearings showed a number of procedural errors, prosecutors agreed to reopen their snout-to-tail investigation into Mincione, effectively suspending the charges against him.

Earlier this week, the chief judge at the Vatican trial set an effective deadline of Jan. 25 next year for the prosecution to either file new charges against Mincione, or drop their case against him.

Mincione has said the charges against him are hogwash.

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