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.
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.
Sansone was among the Vatican employees suspended in the October raid of the Secretariat of State by Vatican prosecutors.
It is not clear whether the document listing Capaldo as a Vatican citizen was in error, or whether the architect had in fact been granted a Vatican passport, but Capaldo himself was required to countersign the document identifying him as a citizen of the Vatican.
Citizenship of the Vatican City State is sometimes afforded to lay employees working in the curia, but is only granted to those living within the territory of Vatican City itself, and forfeited upon departure. Vatican citizenship has also sometimes been granted to lay people as a personal favor by curial officials, because it confers several benefits, and the Vatican does not assess an income tax.
The Secretariat of State issues a small number of passports for travel in the name of the Holy See, reserved to clerics engaged on diplomatic service for the Holy See and carrying with them diplomatic immunity.
It is unclear what, if any, role Capaldo has in curial service, or why he might have been granted citizenship by the Secretariat of State if his job is to run a property investment in London.
Vatican citizenship could carry with it the benefit of access to banking privileges either of the Holy See’s two financial institutions, the IOR, which functions as a deposit bank, and APSA, which acts as the Vatican’s reserve bank and sovereign wealth fund. Such funds have been used in the past by private individuals seeking to skirt international banking regulations and external scrutiny of business deals.
According to the terms of an agreement reached with Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, following a 2012 on-site inspection, exempting it from future inspections, APSA was required to close a number of accounts held for private individuals, including senior churchmen and Vatican citizens. Senior sources at APSA and the Vatican’s Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that several of these accounts are still in operation but had been anonymized following the Moneyval agreement.
“Essentially, named accounts became private numbered accounts,” one senior official told CNA. “Looking at the account ledgers, there is no way to tell the difference between an individual or institution as the account holder, it’s just a number.”
“They were supposed to all be closed down, and some of them were. But no one is being made to do anything - some of the accounts are still very much on the books.”
Though apparently living in London, Capaldo is a major shareholder and former chairman of an Italian real estate company called Imvest, which describes its business as “buying and selling real estates, as well as managing the construction of buildings, blocks and lots mainly for individual clients” and “facility management and services of territories and properties for tenants, private clients and public institutions.”
Among the company’s principal shareholders is a private, family-owned Italian bank named Banca Finnat Euroamerica S.p.A., which is controlled by the Nattino family.
In 2017, Italian financial authorities froze 2.5 million euros is assets belonging to Giampiero Nattino, who was then the bank’s chairman, saying that he had used personal accounts held at both IOR and APSA to commit a string of offences, including market manipulation, and had provided false information to Italian financial authorities.
In 2017, Italian police said Nattino had used Vatican accounts to carry out “a complex stock operation which resulted in criminal behaviour regarding market manipulation,” despite the 2012 directive to APSA to close such accounts.
The police action followed a 2011 investigation by Vatican authorities into Nattino. At that time, investigators identified Nattio as the owner of a portfolio of accounts at APSA which they suspected were used for money laundering and market manipulation. Authorities questioned why he had banking privileges at APSA at all.
The balance of Nattino’s accounts, some 2 million euros, was transferred to Switzerland shortly before the 2012 regulations were due to come into force. The Vatican investigation noted the “dubious origin and dubious final destination of the funds in the closing of” Nattino’s portfolio.
Another large stakeholder in Capaldo’s company Imvest is FEG International Assets SA, an anonymously incorporated company in Luxembourg formerly run by Gianluigi Torzi.
FEG and Torzi were named recently in a commercial fraud suit in London’s High Court. Also named as respondents in the suit were Giancarlo Andreella and his former company, Odikon Services PLC, of which Torzi was also a director. Odikon, formerly known as Beaumont Investment Services PLC, it is currently suspended by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. Capaldo served as a director of Odikon Services until November 2018.
Imvest’s largest shareholder is Meti Capital, of which Capaldo also a part owner. Meti Capital’s largest owner (48% stake) is Yield Corporate Advisor Ltd., incorporated in Malta and owned by Andreella. Another major shareholder in Meti is Beaumont Investment/Odikon Services.
Imvest was raided by Italian authorities in May 2018 and several directors indicted on charges of preparation and submission of false budgets. Among those indicted was Alfio Marchini, a Roman real estate entrepreneur, and twice-failed candidate for Mayor of Rome for the 5 Star Party. That trial is pending.