Report: Vatican investigators focus on longtime investment manager

shutterstock 1338928652 Vatican police car. | AM113/Shutterstock

An Italian newsweekly said Friday that it has obtained a document in which Vatican investigators focus on a longtime investment manager for the Holy See as a central figure in the ongoing financial scandal. The investment manager has said there is nothing unusual about his work at the Vatican.

In a report published Oct. 23, L'Espresso said it had obtained a letter rogatory sent from the Vatican to Switzerland highlighting alleged activities of Enrico Crasso, an Italian-born Swiss citizen.

Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

The magazine published a photograph purporting to show the cover of the document, which bore the emblem of the promoter of justice of the tribunal of Vatican City State. The document reportedly requested information about several figures caught up in an investigation into a controversial London property deal. The newspaper said the document was sent to Swiss authorities almost a year ago.

CNA has not verified the document's authenticity.

According to L'Espresso, Vatican investigators referred to "a hypothesis" which they said "cannot be excluded" when they requested information from Swiss authorities.

The investigators reportedly summed up that hypothesis by saying: "Given that the links between the various internal and external personages at the Secretariat of State took place over a considerable length of time, through the arrangement of well-structured legal instruments with offices in different countries, including those on 'blacklists,' and with the realization of multiple criminal activities, it also amounts to the crime of criminal association to the detriment of the Holy See."

L'Espresso reported that Crasso appeared to be a pivotal figure in that framework. 

Crasso is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund, in which the Holy See is the principal investor. He began working with the Vatican in 1993.

According to L'Espresso, investigators alleged that Crasso repeatedly "contributed to using funds other than institutional funds and for unprofitable speculative investments." They also reportedly highlighted "an evident conflict of interest and a possible risk of fraud to the detriment of the Secretariat of State."

"It has not been possible to reconstruct the total commissions collected by him for his activity," the investigators reportedly told Swiss authorities.

They also reportedly said: "Despite the fact that the Secretariat of State was alerted, it continued to trust him and did not take away from him the power to operate on his current accounts. The very bond that he has with the employees of the Secretariat of State deserves further study."

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were "no secret." 

In an Oct. 4 interview with Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing "confidential" accounts for Becciu's family.

Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu's brothers. 

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions "step by step."

According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, "but it's not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments."

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Crasso appeared to corroborate Becciu's remarks, saying they had met only five or six times since 2012. He said that Becciu also never applied "pressure" about what investments to make.

Crasso's Centurion Global Fund is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

The fund registered a loss of some 4.6% in 2018, while at the same time incurring management fees of roughly two million euros.

According to Crasso, "the Secretariat [of State] has always earned from our management." 

The Centurion Global Fund first made headlines in December 2019 for its use of Vatican assets under its management to invest in Hollywood films, real estate, and utilities, including investments in movies like "Men in Black International" and the Elton John biopic "Rocketman."

Corriere della Sera reported that Centurion had raised around 70 million euros in cash, and that the Holy See's Secretariat of State was the source of at least two thirds of the fund's assets.

Crasso said Oct. 4 that after Il Corriere's Dec. 2019 article, he was told "the Holy Father had given instructions to liquidate the fund. And now we are closing it."

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While Becciu has said that he didn't know what Crasso was doing, Crasso said "Centurion was known in the Secretariat [of State]" and that Vatican officials "knew very well" which investments were being made. 

Asked how he made his decisions about how to invest Vatican money, Crasso said the secretariat pointed out some investments to him directly, such as shares in the English Eos fund, who were "friends of Mgr Alberto Perlasca."

Perlasca is Becciu's former chief deputy at the Secretariat of State. In February, his home and office were raided by investigators over his participation in the Vatican's investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian financier Raffaele Mincione. 

Crasso indicated that on at least one occasion he informed Perlasca that a desired investment was too risky and advised making an investment of only six million euros instead of 30 million, which they did.

Vatican investments through Centurion have also been reported to include funds from the Peter's Pence collection, intended to support charitable works and the ministry of the Holy See.

Crasso confirmed that "the funds of Peter's Pence were managed by banks, including hedge funds. Everyone knew it," he said. "Now, however, the Vatican's auditor general argues that these funds were tied to charitable works. But they never told the banks!"

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