To complete the sale, in 2018 the Secretariat of State enlisted the help of another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, who acted as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares. Torzi earned 10 million euros for his role in the deal.
According to corporate filings, in November 2018 Tirabassi, who was responsible for managing financial investments for the secretariat, was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a company owned by Torzi and registered in Luxembourg.
Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés show that Tirabassi was appointed a director on 23 November, 2018 and removed by a filing sent on December 27. At the time of his appointment as director, Tirabassis’s address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.
CNA asked Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin if he was aware of the appointment, and whether he considered it appropriate for an official at the secretariat to accept such a position. CNA also asked if officials at the secretariat are generally permitted to accept such positions.
Cardinal Parolin did not respond by time of publication.
Gianluigi Torzi also has connections to the British-Italian architect, Luciano Capaldo, who in 2019 was named a director of London 60 SA Ltd., a U.K. registered holding company owned by the Secretariat of State, which controls the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London.
Capaldo has previously served as a director of several companies at which Torzi has also served as a director, or in which Torzi and his companies have had financial interest: Sunset Credit Yield Ltd., Virtualbricks Ltd., Odikon Services Plc. At least one of these, Odikon Services, has been the subject of a lawsuit for fraud in the U.K., and currently suspended by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.
After several other directors were appointed and removed by the secretariat in 2019, Capaldo is now the sole director at London 60 SA, leaving him effectively in control of the Vatican’s investment.
According to sources close to the Prefecture for the Economy, Tirabassi has been involved in managing several financial transactions at the secretariat which are now being examined by financial investigators at the Vatican.
“When you look at the ledgers, you see large sums coming in, moving around very quickly through different accounts and funds, crossing through different jurisdictions, and returning to the Vatican again in reduced amounts – sometimes all within a day,” a former Vatican official told CNA.
“If pressed on where the money is coming from, where it went and why, and where money is leaking out, there is no clear answer at all,” a senior source told CNA. “About the only consistent thing you can identify is the resistance in the secretariat to explaining anything.”
The October raid also led to the suspension of Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who served as the head of the Information and Documentation Office in the Secretariat’s First Section, which oversees Church and curial governance on behalf of the pope. Prior to that, Carlino was personal secretary to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was sustituto of the Secretariat of State between 2011 and June 2018, functioning as the Vatican City’s effective prime minister.
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On Nov. 4, CNA reported that in 2015 Cardinal Becciu seems to have attempted to obscure $200 million loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property purchased in London, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.
The loans were extended in part by BSI, a Swiss bank with a long track record of violating money-laundering and fraud safeguards in its dealings with sovereign wealth funds.
In 2016, BSI was the subject of a damning report by FINMA, the Swiss financial regulator, which concluded that the bank was in “serious breaches of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organization.”
Among the breaches identified by FINMA were regular “pass-through” transactions in which funds were rapidly transferred between accounts before being sent back out of the bank.
The apparent attempt to obscure the loans was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell. Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA in 2019 that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, Becciu called the cardinal to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”
Becciu reportedly told Pell the cardinal was “interfering in sovereign business” by looking into the secretariat’s dealings with BSI.