Four years later, in 2018, the Secretariat of State decided they no longer wanted to have the London investment managed by Mincione. The Vatican re-purchased the real estate shares and they were handed over to the broker Gianluigi Torzi’s company Gutt SA.
Notably, Torzi kept a thousand shares for himself –– the only ones with voting rights.
Only after this final turn of events did the Secretariat of State decide to take direct control of the luxury property development: The Vatican moved to purchase Torzi’s shares – and this is the context of the interrogations of both Tirabassi and Squillace in the latest trial hearing.
Who knew of the voting rights?
In court, Tirabassi claimed that the Secretariat of State, and he, in particular, did not realize at first that the shares given to Torzi were the only ones with the right to vote, effectively giving Torzi control over the building.
Torzi’s lawyer said otherwise.
Squillace presented slides of seven draft contracts to the court, saying he worked on these to facilitate moving the investment from Athena to Gutt. He also claimed to have raised the question of the shares with Tirabassi, who had allegedly replied that everything was okay because the Secretariat of State had other, similar operations.
Tirabassi’s questioning in court also dealt with another crucial matter: The mortgage from London asset manager Cheyne Capital on the luxury property.
When the Secretariat of State decided to take control of the building in an apparent bid to save the investment, it also faced the mortgage sum, which ran to about $147 million. In order to service this payment, the Secretariat of State turned to the Vatican’s own “bank”, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), for a loan.
In fact the Sostituto, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, stated this was the obvious move, according to Tirabassi in court: "there was nothing more transparent than contacting one's internal institute.”
All the more surprising, then, that this move was not successful.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
The loan that fell through
In court, Tirabassi said that the IOR’s director-general, Gianfranco Mammì, had personally spoken to Pope Francis about the matter. He also said the pope had approved the loan to the Secretariat of State.
Other documentation shows that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, had clearly said in meetings that he had had the pope's approval for the loan.
(Cardinal Parolin is not a defendant in the trial.)
According to Tirabassi’s version of events, a letter on May 24, 2019, from the president of the IOR, Jean Baptiste de Franssu, approved the loan and gave a green light to the money going to the Secretariat of State.
But only three days later, the green light turned to red: Tirabassi said the Vatican’s own watchdog, the Financial Information Authority (ASIF), had blocked the loan, authorizing instead a revised plan of the Secretariat of State to acquire the building.