Vatican criminal trial to shed light on failed Carige bank takeover

FILE PHOTO: People walk in St. Peter’s Square ahead of Pope Francis’ Weekly General Audience, June 9, 2021. REUTERS / Remo Casilli / File Photo reuters_tickers

This content was published on July 19, 2021 – 12:51

By Giselda Vagnoni

ROME (Reuters) – The foiled takeover of a struggling Italian bank in 2018 will be highlighted in an upcoming Vatican lawsuit linked to Pope Francis’ efforts to clean up the Holy See’s finances after decades of scandals.

Weakened by mismanagement and bad debts, Carige bank was placed under special administration by the European Central Bank in early 2019 after an aborted takeover attempt by one of its main shareholders, Raffaele Mincione.

Vatican prosecutors allege Mincione bought a stake in Carige with embezzled money, including funds raised from Catholic worshipers and intended for the needy.

They indicted him and nine others, including a prominent Cardinal Angelo Becciu, with a multi-million euro scandal also involving the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s most exclusive areas. .

The trial is due to open on July 27. The defendants are all free pending the opening of the case.

Mincione, who lives in London, has always denied any wrongdoing. His Italian lawyer Luigi Giuliano declined to comment, saying “he wishes to prepare the defense arguments in the utmost confidentiality” before the trial.

The former Carige shareholder resigned from the lender’s board in September 2018. Two months later, Mincione sold the London property to the Vatican in a deal brokered by another Italian middleman, Gianluigi Torzi, which must also be judged.

Torzi has denied any wrongdoing, as has Becciu.

Prosecutors believe the Vatican paid more than 350 million euros ($ 410 million) for the building, including debt, which had been acquired by Mincione for 129 million pounds ($ 177.66 million) a few years earlier. .

As evidence of suspected criminal intent, prosecutors say Mincione used part of £ 40million of Vatican money to pay off a loan from Torzi for the failed attempt to take control of Carige’s board.

“Until now, sources available for public comment have never suggested that Mincione financed Carige’s buyout with funds from (the Catholic Church),” prosecutors said in their indictment of 487. pages released earlier this month.

The two brokers are accused of embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi is also accused of extortion.

Both men said the sale of the London building was unrelated to Carige’s loan.

Torzi’s attorney, Ambra Giovene, said Reuters prosecutors had yet to prove that part of the £ 40million loan had been transferred by Mincione to his client, and stressed that he didn’t there was no connection between the two agreements.

Carige declined to comment.

($ 1 = 0.7261 pounds)

(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Mark Heinrich)

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