Gianluigi Torzi arrested in London on Italian warrant 

News: Vatican finances

Gianluigi Torzi, the businessman at the center of the ongoing Vatican financial scandal, has been arrested in London. The arrest comes after an Italian judge issued a warrant for Torzi last month on charges of tax evasion, fraud, money laundering and other financial crimes. 

U.K. authorities served Torzi with the Italian warrant May 11, sources in London have confirmed to The Pillar. He will face a hearing next week; a UK judge will rule on an application for bail while Torzi undergoes extradition proceedings. 

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The Italian arrest warrant was issued April 12. The case made by prosecutors in Italy included information shared by the Vatican City’s promoter of justice concerning the investigation of the now sprawling financial scandal centered on the dealings of the Secretariat of State over a period of years.

The Italian charges are based on evidence recovered from emails and text conversations over WhatsApp found on Torzi’s mobile phone, seized by Vatican prosecutors last year. The announcement comes after a U.K. judge lifted a previous court order, sought by Vatican prosecutors, freezing Torzi’s U.K. assets. The U.K. judge found that prosecutors had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the injunction.

Italian police now allege that Torzi used two of his U.K.-based companies for the purposes of tax evasion and to settle debts incurred by other companies owned or controlled by him. He and his companies have also been named in commercial fraud suits in the U.K.

In 2018, Torzi acted as the Vatican Secretariat of State’s broker in the final stage of the London property deal, in which the secretariat purchased a building at 60 Sloane Ave, London, from its former investment manager, Raffaele Mincione. 

Before he was asked to finalize the purchase of the London building for the Secretariat of State, Torzi was involved in several deals with Mincione, including lending one of his companies millions of euros, while Mincione invested Vatican funds in a debt product sold by Torzi which had ties to organized crime.

In addition to the charges he faces in the Italian Republic, Torzi is accused by Vatican prosecutors of defrauding the Holy See in the course of the London property deal. Vatican charges against him include money laundering, extortion, embezzlement and fraud.

This is the second time Torzi has been arrested. Torzi was last arrested in June, 2020, in Vatican City and charged with extortion, money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement. After 10 days in Vatican custody, he was released after agreeing to post a 3 million euro bond to an escrow account at the IOR. The Pillar reported earlier this year that that money never arrived.

He is accused of attempting to extort 15 million euros from the Vatican in exchange for control of the building, for which they had already paid 350 million euros.

Torzi, by name and through his companies, has also been accused of misappropriating millions of euros of Italian government bonds from an Italian insurance company, NET Insurance, Lawyers for the company have called it a “sophisticated fraud.” 

The NET insurance charges appear to be linked both to Torzi’s business dealings with Mincione and his alleged attempts to extort the Vatican.

The possibility of Torzi returning to Rome to stand trial in an Italian court signals a significant development in the Vatican financial scandal.

In seeking their warrant from the Roman court, Italian prosecutors offered new details on the Vatican investigation, including that Vatican prosecutors are investigating “crimes committed by various public officials [in the Vatican] who would have diverted sums of money managed by the Secretariat of State, allowing them to be re-used for speculative purposes [in other jurisdictions, including] in Italy by subjects outside the Vatican, including Gianluigi Torzi.”

During a previous court appearance in the U.K., in which he successfully petitioned for the lifting of the order freezing his U.K. assets, Torzi made a number of serious allegations against senior Vatican officials at the Secretariat of State.

Torzi told the U.K. court that Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official of the Secretariat of State, bragged to him about blackmailing senior Vatican prelates, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. 

During the final weeks of the London property deal, Torzi appointed Tiribassi as a director of the Luxembourg-registered holding company he allegedly used to extort the Vatican for control of the building. He removed Tirabassi several weeks later.

Torzi also told the U.K. court that Tirabassi threatened his life and his family towards the end of the London property deal, together with long-time Secretariat of State investment adviser Enrico Crasso.

Torzi is expected to appear at a court hearing on May 18.