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LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The ghosts of the Holy See's "house of horrors" are returning to haunt Pope Francis even as a celebrity financier is suing the Vatican over the purchase of luxury flats in London.
Mainstream media broke the news Monday that playboy tycoon Raffaele Mincione had filed two lawsuits against the Vatican's Secretariat of State with the High Court of Justice of England and Wales over the controversial investment of £450 million using donations from Peter's Pence — the pope's charitable fund.
The investment broker, once engaged to Heather Mills, former wife of the Beatles' Sir Paul McCartney, is the former owner of the posh property in 60 Sloane Ave., which is at the center of the scandal.
Mincione has denied any underhand transactions and insists that the investment was favorable for the Vatican's finances.
On Wednesday, Italian police under supervision from Vatican authorities raided Mincione's hotel room in Rome and confiscated his electronic devices, including cell phones and iPad.
On June 17, Mincione's company, WRM Capinvest, filed a claim against 60 SA Ltd. The case is WRM Capinvest Ltd. v. 60 SA Ltd., case number LM–2020-000115.
60 SA Ltd., registered in the low-tax zone of Jersey, is represented by Mischon de Reya, but has been under Vatican control since Nov. 2018. It owns the property designated for conversion into luxury flats in upmarket Chelsea, London.
In a separate suit, Luxembourg-based Athena Capital Fund SICAV-FIS SCA, a unit of Athena Capital Fund, also owned by Mincione, filed a commercial contract claim against the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The case is Athena Capital Fund SICAV-FIS SCA v. Secretariat of State of the Holy See, case number CL-2020-000367, Law360.com reported.
The Secretariat has had financial links with Mincione since 2014, when it invested around 200 million euros in Mincione's Athena Global Opportunities Fund.
In 2018, the Vatican hired Gianluigi Torzi, a London-based financier from Molise in southern Italy, to swing the deal. Vatican police arrested Torzi in June after interrogating him for eight hours. Torzi is being accused of extortion in connection with the sale of the property.
There are speculations that the legal proceedings could uncover a complex network of transactions involving Swiss banks, investment funds based in Luxembourg and money spent from Peter's Pence.
In Oct. 2019, Vatican authorities began a criminal investigation into the property deal.
Church Militant reported that the alleged misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars by the Secretariat of State took place under Cdl. Angelo Becciu, a papal ally promoted to cardinal by Pope Francis.
In February, Vatican investigators raided the office and residence of the investment manager of the Vatican Secretariat of State and seized documents and computer equipment as part of its ongoing probe into the financial scandal.
The search was ordered by Promoter of Justice Gian Piero Milano and Deputy Alessandro Diddi on the premises of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, former head of the Administrative Office of the First Section of the Secretariat of State.
Perlasca headed the office responsible for managing Vatican investments and for overseeing the administration of the Peter's Pence fund.
Church Militant also reported on leaked documents revealing the scope and magnitude of the financial scandal engulfing the Vatican, implicating both Cdl. Pietro Parolin, Secretariat of State, and his deputy, Abp. Edgar Peña Parra, considered, respectively, the second- and third-most powerful men in Rome.
Another $250 million from Peter's Pence appears to have been spent on fraudulent legal firms established to cover the purchase of the London property, Church Militant said.
In June, Pope Francis published new rules on the transparency, control and competition of public contracts of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State, seeking to drain the Vatican swamp of endemic financial corruption.
Meanwhile, the closure of churches following the Wuhan virus has forced Pope Francis to postpone the annual collection for Peter's Pence from June 29 (the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul) to Oct. 4 (the day dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi).
Donations to Peter's Pence plummeted in recent years, from $67 million in 2017 down to $55 million in 2018. In Dec. 2019, the assets of Peter's Pence were reported to have dwindled since Francis became pope in 2013 from more than $775 million to $665 million.
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