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Vatican City

Italian arrested over Vatican property deal

Businessman accused of extortion, embezzlement, fraud and money laundering over London purchase

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: June 08, 2020 07:51 AM GMT
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Italian arrested over Vatican property deal

Police carry out security and sanitization checks as people arrive to attend Pope Francis' livestreamed Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 24. (Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

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Vatican police have arrested an Italian businessman who helped the Vatican to buy luxury property in London.

Gianluigi Torzi is accused of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering over the US$200 million deal.

The 2018 purchase of the building in the British capital is being investigated. Torzi is being held in Vatican police barracks and faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.

The apartment block on Sloane Avenue in London's exclusive Chelsea area had been bought with church money by the Secretariat of State, the body responsible for the Vatican's diplomatic and political functions.

The police inquiry centers on allegations that the price for the property was greatly inflated, the BBC reported.

Police raided the Secretariat's office last October and seized documents and computers. The Vatican suspended five officials and barred them from the city-state.

Pope Francis suggested that parts of the deal made were corrupt, saying "they have done things that do not seem clean."

The Secretariat of State is in control of millions of dollars donated by Catholics across the world.

An internal Vatican memo about the investigation into the five officials was leaked to the media, leading to the resignation of the Vatican head of police.

Computers and documents belonging to senior financial official Alberto Perlasca were seized by Vatican police in February.

Pope Francis last week issued a new law designed to boost transparency in the Vatican's financial deals.

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