Vatican Loses $135M in Suspicious London Property Sale amid Massive Fraud Allegations
The Vatican is in the final stages of selling 60 Sloane Ave
The Vatican has sold a luxury office building in London's Knightsbridge neighborhood for a loss of £100MM ($135MM), according to reports.
The decision to sell at such a loss came not long after firing one of the Holy See's most senior officials over some shady London property deals that were losing billions.
According to the FT:
The Vatican is in the final stages of selling 60 Sloane Ave., a large building in the Knightsbridge district of London, for about £200MM ($271MM) to private equity group Bain Capital. Bain Capital and Savills, which is managing the sale, both declined to comment.
Senior Holy See officials - including Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the second-in-command of the Vatican's powerful Secretariat of State - invested a total of €350MM ($405MM) of money donated to the Catholic Church for charitable purposes in London properties, including the Sloane Ave. Building between 2014 and 2018.
According to Vatican investigators, the money was taken from Peter’s Pence, which is an annual donation from global Catholics.
The donation is intended "for the many different needs of the universal church and for the relief of those most in need."
The Vatican had plans to convert the London building into luxury flats, but instead, the building stood at the forefront of the scandal that has forced the Vatican to change its financial structure.
In 2020, the Vatican's powerful central administration office was stripped of its investment portfolio worth hundreds of millions and also comprised of donations from the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Several property agents said they were surprised at the losses, FT reported.
"I couldn’t quite understand how they [the Vatican] had lost money on it," said one agent with decades of experience in the London office market.
The deal seemed shady, to say the least, as the Vatican prosecutors have charged a former Italian banker with crimes including fraud and embezzlement.
The Vatican's prosecutors recently passed the charges, and now it is in a state of legal limbo.
Earlier this year, Vatican prosecutors charged former Italian banker Raffaele Mincione with fraud and embezzlement.
Mincione’s company acquired the London building for £129m in 2012.
Two years later, the Vatican managed charitable donations bought a stake in the property via an investment fund founded by Mincione at a far higher valuation.
In 2018, the Vatican acquired the rest of the building.
According to Vatican prosecutors, Mincione’s companies made a significant profit from investing in the Knightsbridge building.
But he denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the independent third-party consultants justified the property’s value increase.
He added its own investment banks always advised the Vatican.
Later, criminal proceedings against Mincione and others were paused, and charges against the accused were lifted after the Vatican judge requested that the prosecutors provide additional evidence.
Lawyers said the lifting of the charges means the case against him is legally and, in effect, "null."
At the Vatican's request, Mincione has seen almost €50MM of his assets frozen in Switzerland.
Mincione's lawyers are now attempting to press a parallel case in the English High Court to try and unfreeze the assets.
He claims the Vatican officials are responsible for the loss, while prosecutors said it was a result of fraud.