Mincione companies file suit against Vatican Secretariat of State and property holding company

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 29, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Companies owned by Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione have filed lawsuits against the holding company which owns the London building at the center of a multi-million-dollar real estate investment by the Holy See, and against the Vatican Secretariat of State. Both suits were filed with the High Court of England and Wales in London, which is the court of first instance for high value civil cases.

On June 17, Mincione’s company WRM Capinvest filed suit against the Jersey-registered holding company, 60 SA Ltd., according to legal news service Law360.

60 SA Ltd. owns the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, which was acquired by the Secretariat of State from Mincione in stages for some $300 million.

In a separate action, Luxembourg-based Athena Capital Fund SICAV-FIS SCA, a unit of Athena Capital Fund, which is also owned by Mincione, filed a commercial contract claim against the Secretariat of State, Law360 reported this month.

Athena filed the claim together with WRM Capital Asset Management and Mincione personally, the news service reported. It is unclear when that case was filed.

CNA requested an interview with Mincione to discuss the lawsuits, and his relationship with the Vatican. Through a spokesperson, the businessman declined the interview.

The substance of both lawsuits is not yet clear, nor is the nature of the claims Mincione is making against the Secretariat of State.

The news of the legal actions is the latest development in the ongoing financial scandal involving the Secretariat of State’s investments through Mincione, and specifically involving the purchase of the London building.

On June 5, another Italian businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, was arrested by Vatican authorities for his role in brokering the final part of the secretariat’s acquisition of the holding company which owns the building. Prosecutors have charged Torzi with extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering. He was released on bail June 15.

Torzi’s arrest followed months of investigations and raids by Vatican authorities resulting in the suspension of several members of staff at the Secretariat of State. Last month, NZZ am Sonntag reported that tens of millions of euros had been frozen by Swiss authorities in several bank accounts.

Although Italian media have reported that the frozen accounts include some belonging to Mincione, he has repeatedly distanced himself from any personal connection to Torzi and from any professional wrongdoing in his dealings with the secretariat.

The secretariat’s involvement with Mincione dates back to 2014, when it invested some 200 million euros in Mincione’s Athena Global Opportunities Fund. The funds included lines of credit extended by two Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and BSI, against other funds under the control of the secretariat.

CNA has previously reported that, in addition to an initial 45% stake in the London building, owned by Mincione, the funds were also invested in other companies and projects owned or connected to Mincione. On June 6, Vatican News described Mincione’s management of Vatican investments as “speculative” and a “conflict of interest.”

According to Athena fund documents filed with the Luxembourg regulator, Mincione allocated millions in assets from a fund in which the Vatican was the sole investor to buy unrated, non-recourse bonds in his personal holding company, Time & Life SA – essentially using Vatican money to make low-interest, no-strings-attached loans to his other ventures. More than 20 million euros of Vatican money from the same fund was also loaned to another Athena investment fund in which Time & Life was invested.

The Vatican cut ties with Mincione in 2018, acquiring the whole of the London property and withdrawing its remaining investment with Athena.

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