Report: Rome court orders return of cash found at suspended Vatican official’s home

spb bohumil St. Peter's Basilica. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

A Rome court has ruled that the search and seizure of money and other valuables from the home of a suspended Vatican official last November was "illegitimate" and ordered the cash to be returned, according to Italian media reports.

Fabrizio Tirabassi was a lay official at the Secretariat of State until his suspension, together with four other employees, in 2019. According to sources close to the Secretariat for the Economy, Tirabassi oversaw several financial transactions at the secretariat which are now under investigation.

In November 2020, Vatican gendarmes and Italian financial police searched two of Tirabassi's properties, in Rome and in Celano, a town in central Italy where Tirabassi was born.

The search, which was focused on computers and documents, reportedly uncovered bundles of banknotes amounting to 600,000 euros ($713,000), around 200,000 euros of which was reportedly found in an old shoebox.

Police reportedly also found valuables worth an estimated two million euros.

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Rome's Court of Review found several technical "anomalies" with the order and execution of the search warrant, declaring it null and ordering the restoration of the funds to Tirabassi.

One of these irregularities, the report said, was that the search order came directly from the prosecutor's office without going through a judge. The search was reportedly ordered to execute a letter rogatory, a formal request from a court of one country to a court of another, sent by the Vatican.   

CNA has not independently confirmed the reports.

Tirabassi has not returned to work since his suspension in October 2019 and it is unclear whether he remains employed by the Vatican.

He is one of several people being investigated by the Vatican in connection with investments and financial transactions made at the Secretariat of State.

At the center of the inquiry is the purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, which was bought in stages, between 2014 and 2018, from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

Businessman Gianluigi Torzi was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican's purchase of the London property in 2018. CNA has previously reported that Tirabassi was appointed a director of one of Torzi's companies while the businessman was acting as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares.

According to corporate filings, Tirabassi was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a Luxembourg company owned by Torzi, used to transfer ownership of the building between Mincione and the Vatican.  

Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés show that Tirabassi was appointed a director on Nov. 23, 2018, and removed by a filing sent on Dec. 27. At the time of Tirabassi's appointment as director, his business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.

In early November 2020, Italian media reported that Rome's financial police had executed a search warrant against Tirabassi and Mincione, as well as the banker and longtime Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso.

The reports said that the warrant was issued as part of an investigation into suspicions that the three were working together to defraud the Secretariat of State. 

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