The Vatican-Centurion Global financial scandal: A CNA explainer

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- In recent weeks, CNA has been covering a Vatican financial scandal involving a multi-million-dollar investment fund, money donated by Catholics to support charity and Vatican ministries, and a pair of banks linked to money-laundering and bribery allegations.

The financial scandal is one of several unfolding at the Vatican, and covered by CNA. Having trouble keeping them straight? You’re not alone. This is the third in a series of CNA explainers, designed to help you keep track of the money trails in and out of the Vatican.

Here’s the Centurion Global scandal in a nutshell:

Centurion Global is an investment fund by which the Vatican Secretariat of State has invested tens of millions of dollars into Hollywood films, energy projects, and European startups. That investment, which has lost money while its managers have recouped millions in fees, involves fund managers connected to a Swiss bank that ran afoul of regulators and was shuttered – the same bank that partially financed a controversial London deal involving the Secretariat of State. The Centurion investment fund does its business with an unlikely pair of banks: both linked to a billion-dollar Venezuelan money laundering and bribery scandal. The Holy See announced earlier this month that the fund is under investigation.

Here are the major figures and developments in the ongoing story of the Centurion Global investment scandal:

Centurion Global Fund – An investment fund into which the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has invested large amounts of money, including funds that reportedly come from the Peter’s Pence collection, which are donated by Catholics around the world. The Vatican’s Secretariat of State is reported to be the source of at least two-thirds of the fund’s assets, which total around 70 million euro. The fund recently made headlines as reports indicated that it used the Vatican money to invest in Hollywood films, real estate, and utilities. In 2018, Centurion registered a loss of about 4.6%, while incurring management fees of about 2 million euros, raising questions about the use of Vatican – and donor – money. The fund has come under further scrutiny for links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals. Centurion is currently under investigation by Vatican authorities.

Gamma Capital – Centurion’s formal investment manager, which shares an office in Malta, as well as a single phone number and email address, with Centurion. In 2017-2018, Gamma executed all of its client trades through two banks – Banca Zarattini and Sparkasse Bank Malta, both of which are reported to have ties to a money laundering scandal involving the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA.

Enzo Filippini – Founder and owner of Gamma Capital. Filipino previously served as head of the treasury department of BSI, a controversial Swiss bank that was dissolved in 2016 by Swiss authorities for failure to report suspected money laundering and adhere to other anti-fraud regulations. The Vatican Secretariat of State received a substantial loan from BSI to invest in a luxury apartment development in London in 2014.

Banca Zarattini – A small Swiss bank holding all of Centurion Global’s investment funds. In 2018, Zarattini was reportedly named in indictments filed by U.S. prosecutors in a $1 billion money laundering case, involving the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA and Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro. Zarattini was holding funds subject to seizure in the money laundering investigation. The bank was also linked to an alleged $62 million bribe to a PDVSA official.

Sparkasse Bank Malta – One of two banks used by Gamma Capital to execute client trades in 2018. The bank was reported to have ties to a money laundering scandal involving the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA, as well as links to the infamous money-laundering Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Alexander Vella – CEO of Gamma Capital Markets and director of the compliance firm that registered Centurion Global Fund with Maltese regulators in 2016. Valla’s picture and profile as CEO of Gamma Capital were erased from the investment group’s website sometime on Dec. 6.

Enrico Crasso – Longtime Vatican financial advisor and Swiss resident. Centurion Global Fund is managed by Crasso. His former company, Sogenel, is listed as the investment adviser for the fund’s investment portfolio. Crasso is also reported to have played a “central role” in the Secretariat of State’s controversial investment in a luxury apartment development in London in 2014, although the nature of his alleged role is unclear.


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