Italian financial police have executed search warrants across northern Italy this week, as they investigate allegations that a businessman on trial in the Vatican is involved in packaging bad debts claims to Italian hospitals, and selling them as bond securities with a nominal value of one billion euros.
The raids were conducted in several northern Italian regions, according to newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, and targeted broker Gianluigi Torzi, along with four others, all suspected of racketeering, fraud and criminal corruption.
Torzi, who brokered the Vatican’s 2018 purchase of a London development project, is facing trial in the Vatican City State on charges of extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering.
The broker has also been charged in Italian criminal court with tax evasion and money laundering, in connection to his role in the Vatican’s London property purchase.
The allegations which led to this week’s raids bear striking similarity to Torzi’s previous business dealings involving debt securitization at other Italian hospitals, with alleged links to organized crime and the Vatican’s London property deal.
The Pillar has previously reported that, in 2018, Torzi, through his company Sunset Enterprise, packaged and sold the Sierra One Bond, a financial product valued at 100 million euros, which was made up of receivables owed to Italian hospitals and related vendors. The bond included debts issued by facility management company Esperia SpA, which was ordered into forced liquidation for alleged ties to a Camorra mafia crime family in July 2018.
The Vatican itself invested 10 million euros in Sierra One in June 2018, through investment manager Raffaelle Mincione's Athena Global Opportunities Fund – in which the Vatican was the sole investor.
Italian authorities have already been investigating whether companies owned by Torzi defrauded Rome’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital, when they helped convert debts owed to the hospital into securities which could be sold at a diminished value to raise cash for hospital operations.
There are conflicting reports in Italian media about how, exactly, Torzi’s companies are believed to have defrauded the hospital, but generally they are described as having realized large commissions and exorbitant service fees for their work, while allegedly withholding some funds owed to the hospital.
Torzi has maintained his innocence and, in October 2021, the Vatican announced a rescue plan for the hospital.
Torzi became involved with the Vatican in 2018, as the Secretariat of State sought to separate from its investment manager, Raffaele Mincione, who owned the London property in which the Vatican was investing.. Torzi was contracted by the secretariat to broker the final part of the Vatican’s purchase, for a total cost of some 350 million euros.
The Pillar has reported that at the time of Torzi’s appointment to represent the Vatican in its November 2018 separation, Torzi’s companies had previously lent Mincione 26 million euros against the value of bank shares which had collapsed in value earlier that year.