VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Italian prosecutors have asked a judge for an arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, accusing the financier of money laundering and tax evasion. Torzi is already embroiled in a legal battle with the Vatican’s judiciary for his alleged role in the controversial purchase of a London apartment complex using Catholic Church funds.
The document, signed March 29 and seen by Religion News Service, cites “serious indications of guilt related to self-laundering and tax violations.” While drawing from the case initially made by Vatican prosecutors against Torzi, the Italian authorities also charged him with requesting false payments and fraudulently filing for bankruptcy.
The pretrial detention order needs to be approved by a judge in order for the arrest to go forward, but according to the order, an investigation led by Italian financial police showed the “concrete and present danger of a repeat of the alleged offenses.”
The order suggests that Italian and Vatican prosecutors are cooperating in their investigation of Torzi, which for the church authorities became more urgent after a British judge unfroze assets belonging to Torzi on March 23, describing the Vatican’s case as riddled with “non-disclosures and misrepresentations.”
RELATED: British judge unfreezes assets of key figure in Vatican financial scandal
Torzi’s legal team issued a statement saying that the detention order “has not been executed,” and claiming to be “quite perplexed” with Italian prosecutors’ request, given that the Vatican’s allegations were “demolished” only last month.
“We immediately proposed a re-examination with the belief that this ordinance will be immediately canceled,” read the statement. Torzi’s team added that claims of tax evasion are a formality since “all taxes have been paid.”
Vatican police arrested Torzi in June of last year only to release him 10 days later. Vatican prosecutors then alleged that in 2018 and 2019 Torzi extorted more than $17 million from the Vatican officials in unjustified “fees” in exchange for his voting shares of a fund that owned central London real estate.
The property cost the Vatican more than $400 million, allegedly including charitable donations from rank-and-file Catholics. Italian prosecutors allege that Torzi invested the $17 million he received from the Vatican in stocks to “thwart the identification of the criminal origin of said sums.”
The investments he has made in various Italian companies, through offshore accounts and international funds, have earned the broker a “relevant economic profit,” according to the prosecutors’ order, including more than $900,000 between late September and early November of 2019.
Others are accused of taking part in a criminal conspiracy, including an entrepreneur named Giacomo Capizzi, as well as Alfredo Camalò and Matteo del Sette, accountants who allegedly helped Torzi with complex technical and financial maneuvers “that allowed third parties to avoid paying income taxes,” Italian prosecutors said.
A large section of the pretrial detention order draws from information put forth by Vatican prosecutors, crediting the Institute for Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank, for triggering the investigation after flagging a request for roughly $200 million by the Vatican Secretariat of State “for institutional reasons,” which turned out to be for the purchase of the London property.
The Italian authorities seem to question the Secretariat of State’s actions, noting that the competent authority for handling the Vatican’s financial portfolios, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, was not involved in the deal. The secretariat also never sent official documentation to the Council for the Economy, created by Pope Francis in 2014 to oversee financial decisions.
Torzi allegedly funneled a portion of the $17 million to the Italian architect Luciano Capaldo, who has a stake in five companies owned by Torzi.
The second part of the document presents fraudulent bankruptcy and tax evasion charges against Torzi that are unrelated to the Vatican’s London deal. Italian prosecutors found “alarming” the speed with which Torzi was allegedly able to move funds through his various companies, pointing to “a real economic strategy aimed at defrauding the taxman through corporate connections, legal screens and professional collaborators.”
RELATED: Pope Francis and Mario Draghi could become a powerful duo in shaping Europe’s future