The businessman at the center of the London property scandal has registered a new company in the UK, even while he remains a defendant in a financial crimes trial in Vatican City.
Gianluigi Torzi registered his new company, Euroasia Capital Market Associates, in London last month, listing himself as the sole director. The new venture’s registration at Companies House, the UK corporate registrar, stated that it will provide “business support service activities” but provides no other information.
The new company does not appear to have a website, and its registered address is in the Holborn district of London, some distance from Torzi’s previous business address in the upmarket Mayfair neighborhood.
Torzi, who brokered the Vatican’s 2018 acquisition of a London development project, is on trial in the Vatican City State for charges of extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering in relation to that deal.
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, and is being caught up in several other fraud investigations by Italian authorities in relation to Catholic hospitals.
The Italian businessman is a long-time UK resident and has refused to return to Italy or Rome to attend court hearings. Last year, he successfully fought off an extradition request from Italian authorities after an appeals court canceled an arrest warrant.
That ruling by an Italian court effectively halted efforts to repatriate Torzi, though he still faces charges of tax evasion and money laundering in Italy, alongside his trial for alleged extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering in Vatican City.
The charges in both jurisdictions are linked to his role in the Holy See Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London building in 2018.
In 2018, Torzi was engaged by the Vatican Secretariat of State to broker its final acquisition of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London from Raffaele Mincione. Mincione had been managing some 200 million euros for the secretariat, money they borrowed from Swiss banks using Vatican assets on deposit there as leverage for the loans.
Torzi structured the building’s purchase so that ownership of the building came under his Luxembourg holding company, Gutt SA. Torzi was then meant to pass ownership of the company, and the building along with it, to the Vatican. Instead, he restructured Gutt’s shares, creating a new minority class of controlling shares, while passing the ordinary shares on to the secretariat, leaving him with effective control of the building even after the Vatican paid a total of 350 million euros for it.
Torzi then, according to Vatican prosecutors, extorted the Holy See for millions of euros in exchange for the controlling shares in Gutt, with Pope Francis eventually agreeing the final payment.
The building was eventually sold by the Holy See for a loss of more than 100 million euros.
The businessman contends that his actions were approved by the Vatican in advance, including by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Prosecutors in the Vatican and Rome have argued that senior Vatican figures approved the deal based on fraudulent legal advice. Several former secretariat officials have been charged with fraudulently amending documents post facto to make Torzi’s actions appear legitimate.
Torzi was first arrested in Vatican City over his role as broker in the 2018 real estate deal in June, 2020. After being held in the Vatican for several days, he agreed to pay a 3 million euro bond and was released. He defaulted on the bond and fled to London, where he has been ever since.
Questions have also been raised about Torzi’s relationship with Mincione prior to his appointment to broker the London property deal.
The Pillar has previously reported that Mincione invested Vatican money in debt products marketed by Torzi, some with links to mafia-affiliated companies. Mincione invested Vatican money into one such debt product called Sierra One bond,
Despite these business ties to Mincione, Torzi was appointed by the Secretariat of State to broker the final phase of the building’s purchase.
At one point during the 2018 London deal, Torzi met with two representatives from the Secretariat of State — both now also on trial in Vatican City — and solicited 10 million euros.
Legal documents obtained by The Pillar indicate that he needed the money to repay an Italian insurance company after one of his companies misappropriated more than 25 million euros in government bonds belonging to the insurance company, a move lawyers for the insurance company characterized as a “sophisticated fraud.”
During extradition hearings in London, Torzi alleged that Vatican investment managers boasted of blackmailing senior Church officials and threatened his life and the lives of his family, as well as offering him prostitutes in the course of negotiations.
Although Vatican prosecutors have sought to enter statements from Torzi into the record during the current trial, judges have ruled his claims are inadmissible because he has refused to appear at trial and submit to cross examination.
Torzi has been caught up in a number of other business ventures subject to fraud investigations.
Italian authorities have separately investigated 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.