Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2020 / 12:00 pm
A Maltese court has authorized the seizure of assets belonging to the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly called “the Vatican Bank.” The garnishment order was issued last month, allowing three companies involved in a lawsuit against the bank to seize €29.5 million in assets.
Two Malta-based investment companies, Futura Funds Sicav and Futura Investment Management, along with Luxembourg-based Courgar Real Estate, have been embroiled in a years-long court battle with the IOR over millions of euros which the Vatican bank agreed to invest with the firms, before withdrawing from the deal.
At issue is a 2013 investment plan involving the purchase of a property in Hungary – the Budapest Exchange Palace – for development and resale. According to Futura, the IOR originally said it would commit €47 million euros to the project but only delivered €14 million.
Futura argued in the lawsuit that, following a change of leadership at the IOR, the bank had reneged on the project and wanted to go back on its legal commitment to invest.
The judgement by the Maltese court was made March 13 and represents the balance of the investment owed by the IOR and “material damages suffered by Futura Fund and Futura IM” according to a statement from Futura released to the financial news website Expert Investor and reported Monday, April 6.
The statement also said that if the companies are unable to recover the money through IOR assets in Malta, they would pursue the Vatican bank in other European jurisdictions in a “fast-track proceeding.”
In 2013, the same year as the investment plan was agreed upon, Ernst von Freberg was appointed IOR president with a mandate to bring transparency and reform to the institution. Also in 2013, Pope Francis created a pontifical commission to oversee the IOR and “gather accurate information on the legal status and various activities” of the bank, which published its first annual report that year, the contents of which were audited by KPMG.
That same year, the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority was admitted as a full member of the Egmont group of national financial investigative agencies.