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Pope Francis and different prelates authorized actual property deal, ex-Vatican official says

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Testifying on the huge trial ensuing from the Vatican’s newest monetary scandal Wednesday (April 27), the previous director of the Catholic Church’s anti-money-laundering watchdog company mentioned Pope Francis and different high-ranking prelates backed efforts to realize sole possession of the prime London actual property on the middle of the scandal.

Tommaso Di Ruzza, who ran the entity now referred to as the Supervisory and Monetary Data Authority, often known as ASIF, is charged with abuse of workplace for his alleged failure to flag a 2019 request by the Vatican Secretariat of State for a mortgage from the Vatican financial institution, supposed to repay $150 million in debt owed on the London condominium advanced.

Di Ruzza advised the Vatican judicial tribunal that Vatican higher-ups, together with Francis, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the Substitute Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, have been conscious of the mortgage request and that in a March 2019 assembly, Francis voiced “the curiosity of the Holy See in turning a brand new web page,” and “particularly requested to supply help to the Substitute.”

On the time, the Secretariat of State, which had spent greater than $200 million to acquire a stake within the fund that owned the property, had requested Italian financier Gianluigi Torzi to assist it acquire full possession.

Torzi ended up sequestering 1,000 voting shares of the fund for himself, which gave him final management over the property, and requested $17 million to relinquish them. Vatican prosecutors declare his demand qualifies as extortion. After the Secretariat paid Torzi in two installments, it turned to the Vatican financial institution to repay the $150 million lien on the property.

The mortgage ultimately got here to the eye of Vatican prosecutors, who after an investigation alleged that Di Ruzza didn’t carry out due diligence in reviewing the mortgage. Vatican judges and prosecutors questioned Di Ruzza at size Wednesday on his position and oversight within the Catholic establishment.

Di Ruzza testified that ASIF was not certified on the Vatican to supervise the Secretariat of State’s funds and that the transaction didn’t increase crimson flags in regards to the financing of terrorists or cash laundering, which have been the principle issues for his division. 

He mentioned his division grew to become conscious of the London deal in 2018 and solely found concerning the cost to Torzi after the deal was signed.

“I all the time acted within the curiosity of the Holy See,” he mentioned.

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, or APSA, ultimately borrowed $150 million from international banks to extinguish the mortgage on the property, which the Vatican offered in January 2022.

Within the a number of later conferences that Di Ruzza claims to have had with Vatican prelates, they allegedly “expressed the need to not start litigation” and strike a cope with Torzi. 

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He additionally claimed that his division requested for clarifications relating to the mortgage from the Vatican safety companies and gendarmerie in addition to different monetary entities on the Vatican. Di Ruzza additionally advised judges that his fellow defendant René Brülhart, then-president of ASIF, acted inside the confines of the division’s statute.

René Brülhart talks to the media throughout a briefing to current the Vatican monetary oversight report, on the Vatican, April 28, 2016. (AP Photograph/Andrew Medichini)

Brülhart told the Vatican judges in early April that he was positive he had not dedicated any crime.

In what has develop into a routine function of the trial, the judges once more rejected a request by protection legal professionals claiming that the trial is null as a result of prosecutors have didn’t return sequestered materials. The protection crew of financier Enrico Crasso, who managed a major quantity of Vatican belongings, responded by likening the court docket to the Inquisition.

The Vatican trial will resume Could 5, when Cardinal Angelo Becciu will testify earlier than judges for a second time because the starting of the proceedings. Becciu is accused of embezzlement, abuse of workplace and witness tampering, which he vehemently denies.

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