The businessman convicted in a Vatican Court of extorting and defrauding the Holy See over a London building has been arrested, again.
Gianluigi Torzi was detained in Dubai on Jan.10, according to multiple reports, and is being held on warrants issued by prosecutors in Italy for financial crimes unrelated to his Vatican trial.
Torzi is accused of conspiracy to manipulate the market in 2017-2019 through his involvement with Aedes, an investment firm listed on the Milan stock exchange, and his detention in Dubai is a result of an international arrest warrant filed by local Italian prosecutors.
The broker was convicted in December last year of multiple financial crimes in Vatican City over his role in the London property scandal.
Hired in 2018 by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to manage its acquisition of the building at 60 Sloane Ave. from investment manager Raffaele Mincione, Torzi structured the deal so that his Luxembourg-registered holding company would take ownership of the building, and he would then convey ownership of the holding company to the Vatican.
Instead, after taking ownership of the building, Torzi restructured the shares of the holding company, passing 30,000 ordinary shares to the Secretariat of State while retaining 3,000 preferential shares for himself that left him in total control of the company and therefore the building.
Prosecutors argued in Vatican court that Torzi extorted the Holy See for millions for control of the company — securing a Boxing Day papal audience for him and his family in the process.
The businessman has argued, through his lawyers, that his restructuring of the shares was approved by officials at the Secretariat of State, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and other secretariat officials tried to bribe, blackmail, and threaten him into giving them control of the building for their personal gain.
Judges in Vatican City assigned Torzi a sentence of six years in prison, a fine of 6,000 euros ($6,500), and perpetual disqualification from holding public office, in addition to damages.
After his initial arrest in Vatican City in 2020, Torzi was granted 3 million euros bail, which he failed to post, and fled to the U.K., where he fought off a succession of extradition requests from Vatican and Italian authorities.
In 2021, Italian prosecutors charged Torzi with tax evasion and money laundering in relation to his alleged extortion of the Vatican and issued an international arrest warrant on which he was initially held in London. The Italian businessman is a long-time U.K. resident and refused to return to Italy or Vatican City to attend court hearings.
Torzi’s pending prosecution in Milan joins a crowded charge sheet against the businessman, who has for years faced investigations and criminal charges over a string of fraudulent business deals.
Legal documents obtained by The Pillar indicate that his attempts to extort the Vatican over the London building were linked to money Torzi needed to repay an Italian insurance company after one of his companies misappropriated more than 25 million euros in government bonds, a move lawyers for the insurance company characterized as a “sophisticated fraud.”
Raffaele Mincione, one of his co-defendants in the Vatican City trial, has also filed a criminal complaint against Torzi with a Roman court, alleging fraud via a bond sold by Torzi which included securitized 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.
Italian authorities have separately investigated whether companies owned by Torzi defrauded Rome’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital, when they helped to convert debts owed to the hospital into securities which could be sold at a diminished value to raise cash for hospital operations.
In July, 2023, Torzi registered a new company in the U.K., Euroasia Capital Market Associates, through which he claims to offer businesses his “advisory services.” The company does not appear to have a website and has no known clients.