Broker’s Malta firm connected to London scandal that forced Vatican resignation

An Italian insurer has filed a €2 million lawsuit against the Italian director of the Maltese financial services firm Sunset Financials, who is implicated in a Vatican finance scandal

 Gianluigi Torzi (left) owns Maltese company Sunset Financials
Gianluigi Torzi (left) owns Maltese company Sunset Financials

An Italian insurer has filed a €2 million lawsuit against the Italian director of the Maltese financial services firm Sunset Financials, who is implicated in a Vatican finance scandal.

Net Insurance SpA filed the claim in London’s High Court against Gianluigi Torzi for failing to fulfill the terms of a 2019 settlement agreement.

The Italian financier was arrested in June in connection with his role in a London real estate deal and released from prison on bail on 15 June. He is charged with extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering.

Net Insurance said Sunset failed to complete a significant obligation to organise the sale of certain ‘Augusto’ bonds for €10 million, or provide that money in cash by December 2019.

As part of the settlement, the breach triggered a €2 million payment due to Net Insurance, which to date has gone unpaid. Torzi is disputing the breach.

Torzi, who is based in the UK, is charged with fraud in Italy for his role brokering the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury €379 million London building, after he provided a loan to the seller of the property months before the real estate deal took place.

High-ranking Vatican official Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu has resigned after being told to do so by Pope Francis, suspected of having given Church money to his brothers. Becciu had a key job in the Secretariat of State and became involved in a controversial deal to invest in a luxury London building with Church funds. That investment has since been the subject of a financial investigation.

The Vatican charged Torzi with over his role as middleman in the 2018 acquisition of 60 Sloane Avenue in London, on behalf of an arm of the Vatican, from Raffaele Mincione. Vatican prosecutors suspect the price paid for the property, negotiated by Torzi himself, and funded by Catholic charitable donations and a €135m mortgage, was higher than the building’s worth.

However, 11 months before the property transaction, in January 2018, Torzi’s Sunset Financial provided Mincione with a €26m credit line. Mincione used the money to buy shares in troubled Italian lender Banca Carige and paid Torzi over €1m in consultancy fees and loan interest. After Mincione failed to win control of Carige’s board, his shares – used as collateral for the Torzi loan – lost their value.

In November 2018, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State – which is the Holy See’s central administration – asked Torzi to negotiate the acquisition of the London building from Mincione. Both men insist this event is unconnected to the prior loan.

In September 2019, Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State and suspended several Vatican officials.

The Holy See’s prosecutors believe there is an “enormous disparity” between the value of the London property and the price the Vatican paid. Torzi is accused by the Vatican of extorting €15m in payments from the Holy See after the purchase of the London property was completed. He denies the charges. Torzi insists that the credit line to Mincione’s company had no effect on his role as intermediary in the London property deal.

Mincione, who has not been charged with any offence by the Vatican, initiated legal proceedings in London against the Vatican Secretariat of State.

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