Judge sets bail of $1.6 million for Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi

Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, England Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, England. | GrimsbyT via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

A U.K. judge has set a bail of $1.6 million for Gianluigi Torzi, the businessman who helped to broker the Vatican’s controversial purchase of a London investment property.

Judge Paul Goldspring ordered the broker to put up the sum because he feared that Torzi was a flight risk following his arrest in London at the request of a judge in Rome, reported Bloomberg News May 19.

The news agency said that Torzi was required to surrender all his passports and would not be released from custody until he put up the full amount.

Torzi was arrested in London on May 11. The 42-year-old, who denies wrongdoing, is accused in Italy of money laundering and fraud offenses.

He is also under investigation by the Vatican for his role in securing the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London property on 60 Sloane Avenue in 2018.

Bloomberg News reported that Torzi lives in a $25 million house in central London, with the property’s rent paid by a trust.

It said that Rachel Scott, the broker’s lawyer, described Torzi’s personal wealth as “very illiquid” during a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 19. It also said that the judge referred to Torzi’s financial assets as “opaque.”

The legal website Law360 reported that the judge had asked for more information about Torzi’s finances at a bail application hearing at the court on May 17.

Torzi was arrested by the Vatican last summer and held in custody for a little more than a week on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

Catholic investigative news website The Pillar reported in March that Torzi was released after agreeing to post a bond of around $3.4 million, but that the money never arrived at the Vatican.

At the center of the Vatican’s investigation is the scandal involving the London property, which the Secretariat of State bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.

The Vatican claims that Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.

In a March ruling, British judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court sided with Torzi, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and was a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.

Torzi is one of several figures under investigation by Vatican City State prosecutors in connection with multiple financial scandals involving the Secretariat of State.

The mishandling of funds in the secretariat in recent past years has led Pope Francis to issue financial reforms for the Roman Curia, including moving investment funds from the control of the secretariat to APSA, the Vatican’s central bank.

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