On Nov. 20, 2018, there was a meeting in Mincione’s London offices. It was attended by Mincione, Torzi, Tirabassi, Crasso and the lawyer Manuele Intendente.
Under questioning, Crasso complained about being involved in the matter, saying that “going to that meeting was the biggest mistake of my life.”
Tirabassi said that he was in constant telephone contact with Monsignor Perlasca and that Perlasca himself told him that Torzi would be representing the Holy See’s interests. Everyone confirmed that the Vatican did not have a lawyer to represent it at the meeting.
But what of Intendente’s role? Mincione said: “I thought he was the head of the Gendarmerie. He sat at the back, never speaking, with a slightly grim look that confirmed the idea that he was a policeman.”
Mincione was very disappointed that control of the building was taken away from him. He believed that the contract should have come to an end. Disappointed, he left his lawyers with the task of developing the exit agreement. “I could ask for any price, refuse, but I let it go,” he said.
Torzi assigned almost all the shares to the Secretariat of State, but kept 1,000 of them: the ones with the right to vote.
Both Tirabassi and Crasso said they did not know about the nature of the 1,000 shares. Monsignor Perlasca insisted in interviews before he became the trial’s star witness that when he realized what had happened, he wanted to denounce it. But in his view, a complaint could have been counterproductive. There were contracts, and contracts had to be respected.
Archbishop Peña Parra’s headache
In mid-2018, Archbishop Peña Parra was appointed Sostituto and immediately faced a remarkably complex situation. He decided to take matters into his own hands. The most logical solution, in his opinion, was to acquire the property directly, ending contracts with intermediaries and thus allowing the Secretariat of State to invest directly.
Meanwhile, Capaldo had become a consultant for the Secretariat of State. His defense claimed that he had cut off all contact with Torzi. Mincione said that, after making the first offer for the acquisition of the building by his company, Capaldo arrived with another offer of 350 million euros, representing a Sheikh Salah. Indeed, the Holy See took away the property management and made Mincione suspect that it had decided to resell it to Salah, and then to pocket the capital gain. But it would not be so.
Peña Parra entered a world of mutual suspicion. Monsignor Carlino said during the trial that he had been placed under control by Giuseppe Milanese, a personal friend of Pope Francis, and that the pope was involved in mediation to persuade Torzi to leave the deal.
Crasso said that he was asked to find, in the fund of the Secretariat of State, six million euros (around $6.4 million) to finance the sale of bonds of a cooperative run by Milanese.
Carlino recalled that Peña Parra also put Gian Franco Mammì, director general of the IOR, under observation. The Secretariat of State asked the IOR for a loan to take over the mortgage on the London building and renegotiate it. The IOR at first said yes, with an official note. Then it suddenly changed course. Mammì made a report to the Vatican’s auditor general, who started an investigation.
This was followed by searches at the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority, a summary procedure decided by the pope, and the trial that is presently taking place at the Vatican.
Mincione has always stressed that his relationship was with Credit Suisse and not directly with the Holy See. “I don’t understand why I’m here and not Credit Suisse,” he said.
At this point in the trial, the hearings have created more questions than answers. It must be remembered that the accused are questioned but they do not give a formal testimony, swearing an oath to tell the truth. They can therefore potentially lie to defend themselves. This needs to be borne in mind when considering their declarations.
But there is a striking harmony in their accounts, albeit with various nuances. And so, we can begin to grasp the wider picture, even if some parts have yet to come into focus.