Report: Secretariat of State official paid by Swiss bank for Vatican accounts

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

St. Peter’s Square. / Mazur/

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A suspended Secretariat of State official was paid a side fee by a Swiss bank for bringing in Vatican investment funds, according to an Italian media report.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper reported July 1 that Fabrizio Tirabassi was given a “finder’s fee” by the Swiss bank UBS, where the Secretariat of State reportedly had accounts worth over 600 million euros ($710 million), while he was working as a lay official at the secretariat.

The newspaper said that documents showed that UBS had a contract with Tirabassi from at least 2004 to 2016, guaranteeing him a commission of 0.5% per year on the assets deposited in UBS accounts and for bringing in new clients.

CNA has not independently confirmed the report.

Until his suspension in October 2019, Tirabassi was a senior lay official working within the Secretariat of State’s general affairs section, where he oversaw investments and would have had a say over the movements of the Vatican’s Swiss accounts.

Tirabassi is one of several people being investigated by the Vatican in connection with investments and financial transactions made at the Secretariat of State.

At the center of the inquiry is the purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

Businessman Gianluigi Torzi was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican’s purchase of the London property in 2018.

CNA has previously reported that Tirabassi was appointed a director of one of Torzi’s companies while the businessman was acting as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares.

According to corporate filings, Tirabassi was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a Luxembourg company owned by Torzi, used to transfer ownership of the building between Mincione and the Vatican.

Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés showed that Tirabassi was appointed a director on Nov. 23, 2018, and removed by a filing sent on Dec. 27. At the time of Tirabassi’s appointment as director, his business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.

In October 2020, Corriere della Sera published a report saying that it had heard “extensive excerpts” from a secret audio recording of a meeting between Torzi, Tirabassi, and Enrico Crasso on Dec. 19, 2018.

According to the newspaper, Tirabassi could be heard in the recording thanking Torzi for his help in securing the London deal.

Tirabassi then allegedly tried to persuade Torzi to part with a thousand voting shares belonging to Gutt SA, Torzi’s Luxembourg-based company that took over the building at 60 Sloane Avenue and was meant to act as a pass-through between Mincione and the Vatican.

In early November 2020, Italian media reported that Rome’s financial police had executed a search warrant against Tirabassi and Mincione, as well as Crasso, a banker and longtime Vatican investment manager.

The reports said that the warrant was issued as part of an investigation into suspicions that the three were working together to defraud the Secretariat of State. All three have denied any wrongdoing.

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