Lone director of Vatican's London property has business ties to deal's broker
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 2, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-
The Vatican Secretariat of State’s holding company, through which it controls a London property at 60 Sloane Avenue, has only one registered director, an Italian-British architect.
As the London property remains in the headlines, it is not clear how he was appointed to that role, but the architect has business connections to Gianluigi Torzi, who acted as a broker in the Holy See’s purchase of the property.
The purchase of the London building is at the center of unfolding financial scandals surrounding the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. It was purchased over a period of years from the Vatican’s investment manager Raffaele Mincione for a reported 350 million pounds; Torzi brokered the final stage of the sale.
The building is now controlled by the secretariat through a U.K. registered company, London 60 SA Ltd.
Since November 2019, the company has had only one listed director: Luciano Capaldo, an architect and property developer with connections to businesses linked to Torzi.
Four directors have been appointed to the London 60 Sa Ltd since it was registered in early 2019; three were removed between August and November 2019. Two of those removed are former staff members at the Vatican secretariat, who were removed from their posts after raids at the secretariat in October, 2019.
In June, Vatican prosecutors arrested Torzi, who has been charged with extortion, self-laundering, aggravated fraud, and embezzlement.
Although Torzi was meant to be acting on behalf of the Vatican’s interests in its dealing with Mincione, CNA has reported on the potential conflicts of interest in the deal:
That Mincione owed millions of euros to one of Torzi’s companies at the time of the transaction. And that Mincione had invested 10 million euros of Vatican funds in Sierra One, a bond of securitized debt, including some debt from mafia-linked companies, which was packaged and sold by Sunset Enterprise Ltd., a company controlled at that time by Torzi.
Sierra One’s administrator was Giacomo Capizzi, a business associate of Torzi. Capizzi is the CEO of Meti Capital, a company of which Capaldo owns personally almost 3%, and in which Torzi's company, Sunset Enterprises, is also a shareholder.
Capizzi is also CEO of Imvest, a property development company listed in Rome. Imvest’s largest shareholder is Meti Capital.
Luciano Capaldo was chairman of Imvest from 2017 to 2018. He stepped down for “personal and family reasons,” on Nov. 26, 2018, during the same week the Vatican finalized its purchase of the London property.
Another stakeholder in Imvest is FEG International Assets SA, an anonymously incorporated company in Luxembourg that, in 2016, was run by Torzi.
In 2019, FEG and Torzi were named in a commercial fraud suit in London’s High Court. Also named as respondent was Torzi’s former company Odikon Services PLC, a company of which Capaldo was secretary from May to November 2018, and an investor in Meti as of December 2017.
Capaldo stepped down as the secretary of Odikon in November 2018, the same month he ceased being chairman of Imvest and the Vatican’s London property deal was finalized by Torzi.
Capaldo’s attorneys have said that the businessman has no knowledge of the lawsuit against Odikon.
Torzi, and his companies Odikon Services and Sunset Enterprise, are currently being investigated by Italian authorities for an alleged multi-million euro fraud involving securitization of debt owed to Fatebenefratelli, a Catholic hospital in Rome. The alleged fraud dates back to 2018, when Capaldo was secretary of Odikon.
The Fatebenefratelli debt was at one point part of the Sierra One bond, in which Mincione invested Vatican money in June 2018.
Capaldo has also served as a director of two other companies at which Gianluigi Torzi was a director, or in which Torzi and his companies had a financial interest: Sunset Credit Yield Ltd. and Virtualbricks Ltd.
The Vatican has not explained how the businessman was chosen by the Secretariat of State to serve as a director of London 60 SA, or why he is now the sole remaining director of the company. Nor has Capaldo responded to questions CNA sent to his attorney regarding his relationship with Torzi.