Raffaele Mincione sues Italian newspaper for libel over Vatican property deal 

News: Vatican Finances

What’s new: Raffaele Mincione, the businessman who managed Vatican investments and sold the Secretariat of State a London building, is suing Italian newspaper La Repubblica for alleged libel.

Why it matters: Mincione is already suing the Secretariat of State in a UK court over the property deal, which is worth hundreds of millions of euros. Depositions in both lawsuits could provide details of the London property deal at the heart of the unfolding Vatican financial scandal.

Want the details? Keep reading.

The Italian businessman who managed millions in Vatican investments, and who sold a London building to the Secretariat of State for hundreds of millions of euros, is suing an Italian newspaper for libel over its coverage of the deal. 

Raffaele Mincione filed suit in the High Court of England and Wales on Dec. 17, according to the legal news site Law360. 

In the claim, lawyers for Mincione allege that the GEDI Group, the Italian publisher of the newspaper La Repubblica, “gravely damaged in [Mincione’s] personal and professional business reputation,” and that the businessman has “suffered considerable distress and embarrassment.”

According to Law360, the lawsuit takes issue with several articles published by La Repubblica, which, Mincione claims, accuse him of participating in a fraud against the Vatican, and in the embezzlement of Church funds set aside for charitable purposes in order to fund the Vatican investment in the building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London.

The businessman is seeking 200,000 pounds in damages from the publisher and an injunction against their printing any further “defamatory” statements about him.

Mincione and his companies have already brought two separate lawsuits against the Vatican Secretariat of State and one of its holding companies over the fallout of the London property deal. 

In the suit filed in June 2020, Mincione asked that the court grant him declaratory relief against the Secretariat of State and rule he "acted in good faith” in his dealings with the Vatican. Mincione’s lawyers argue that the Holy See may be trying to nullify the sale of the building, after official Vatican media described his management of investments for the secretariat as “speculative” and a “conflict of interest.”

The Pillar contacted a spokesman for Mr. Mincione, who declined to comment on the suits.

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Mincione’s relationship with the Secretariat of State dates back to 2014, when the curial department, then under the direction of Archbishop Angelo Becciu, decided to invest some 200 million euros in Mincione’s Athena Global Opportunities Fund. 

Previous reporting has established that the Vatican investment came, in part, 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 ventures owned by or connected to him. 

In June, 2018, Micione also invested 10 million euros of Vatican funds in Sierra One SpV, a bond product packaged and sold by Sunset Enterprise Ltd., a company then under the control of businessman Gianluigi Torzi. The Sierra One bond included debt products issued by a company linked to organized crime.

Also in June 2018, Becciu was made a cardinal and promoted to lead the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

Later that year, the Holy See separated itself from Mincione. Under the terms of the separation agreement, the Secretariat of State purchased the remaining share of the London building, gave up its remaining investment in the Athena Global Opportunities Fund, and reportedly paid an additional 40 million euros to Mincione through Athena.

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In total, the Holy See is estimated to have paid some 200 million euros for the building, in addition to taking on a 150 million euro mortgage attached to the property. Last week, it emerged that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, had written to the president of a Vatican bank in 2019, pressuring him to authorize a loan to refinance the mortgage on the deal, citing the “superior needs” of the Holy See.

In Nov. 2018, Torzi acted for the Secretariat of State to broker the final sale of the London building from Mincione. Torzi was arrested by Vatican authorities in June 2020, for his part in the sale and charged with embezzlement, aggravated fraud, self-laundering, and extortion.

In Sept. 2020, Cardinal Becciu was forced to resign his curial position, and the rights and privileges of a cardinal, by Pope Francis, after Vatican prosecutors reportedly presented the pope with a dossier of evidence against Becciu concerning financial malfeasance. 

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Mincione has twice been served with search and seizure warrants by Italian authorities, acting on requests from Vatican financial investigators examining the London deal.

In December 2020, Pope Francis stripped the Secretariat of State of its financial portfolio, and ordered the department to turn over control of all bank accounts and investments to the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See.