WRM CapInvest is an investment company owned by Raffaele Mincione, who owned the Chelsea building through a holding company, 60 SA Ltd. Mincione sold a share in the holding company, and eventually the entire thing, to the Secretariat of State. Another of Mincione's companies, Athena Capital, a Luxembourg investment fund, acted as the vehicle for the Vatican's investment.
"At no time did the developer disclose any connection between this project and the Holy See. Equally, no one from the Holy See contacted the Diocese about this project. We only became aware of this possible connection when [CNA] contacted [the archdiocese]."
Fr. Wilson told CNA it was a Vatican official who presented the plan to him, alongside archdiocesan officers.
He added that the idea was presented as beyond his power to prevent, despite canonical norms that ensure decisions about parish property are the purview of the pastor, not the Holy See or the local bishop.
The London property investment points to a network unsavory financial actors and unseemly practices involved in the Vatican's London investment, even amid repeated efforts to bring financial practices into line with international practices and standards.
CNA has reported that the London investment was funded by a $200 million short-term loan arranged through Swiss banks, along with a nearly $50 million 2018 investment in the same property, bringing it completely under Vatican ownership. Rather than buying the building outright from 60 SA Ltd., Mincione's holding company, the Secretariat of State instead took that company over in 2018, setting up a new London company to control the investment.
According to the Financial Times, Mincione sold his personal stake in the property to the Vatican at "a significantly higher price than he had paid for it two years earlier."
Last month, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said the investment was unique in some ways, and that the fund in question appeared to be "well managed." He said that he was working to clear up questions about the project.
"We are working to clear up everything. This deal was rather opaque and now we are trying to clear it up," Parolin said.
Also last month, former sostituto at the Secretariat of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu strongly denied any impropriety in the deal, responding to what he called "slanderous charges" that he had "played with and tampered with the money of the poor" in the 2014 transaction, the cardinal defended the investment last month, saying it was "accepted practice."
The London property investment is believed to be at the center of an ongoing investigation by Vatican prosecutors who, in October, raided the offices of the Secretariat of State and the Vatican's own financial watchdog.
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Among those suspended following the raids was Msgr. Mauro Carlino, an official at the Secretariat of State. Carlino was listed in May, 2019, as a director of a company called "London 60 SA Ltd.," the holding company incorporated in the United Kingdom, through which the Secretariat of State controls the Jersey-based 60 SA Ltd., which in turn owns the property on Sloane Ave.
The UK's registrar of companies lists the Holy See Secretariat of State as the single shareholder and legal person with "significant control" of the London company, and the right to appoint and remove directors. Public records show Carlino was terminated as a director in August, 2019, two months before the Vatican raid.
Among the other registered directors of London 60 SA Ltd. is Mr. Luciano Capaldo, an architect. According to his resumé Capaldo specializes in "real estate valuation" and "project-property design and management."
In filings officially approved by the Secretariat of State concerning his initial appointment as a director for London 60 SA Ltd. in May 2019, Capaldo was identified as a "Vatican citizen." A subsequent filing changed Capaldo's nationality of record to British and Italian.
According to British corporate filing requirements, only an agent of the Secretariat of State or the first officer of the holding company could file a document appointing Capaldo as a director.
In practice this means only Parolin, Becciu, or Dr. Caterina Sansone, who was the company's sole officer at the time of Capaldo's appointment, would have filed the legal appointment that listed Capaldo as a Vatican citizen.