Heather Mills’s ex-fiance takes Vatican to High Court over £450m deal that saw Catholic church use worshippers’ charitable donations to buy prime London property
- Charitable donations were allegedly used to buy prime property in London
- Two claims against the Vatican relate to the purchasing of a building in Chelsea
- Claim comes from millionaire financier who was once engaged to Heather Mills
Heather Mills’ former fiance has taken the Vatican to the High Court over a £450million deal that allegedly saw the Holy See use worshippers’ charitable donations to buy prime London property.
Millionaire financier Raffaele Mincione previously owned 60 Sloane Avenue, which once housed the Harrods showroom, and has now begun two legal claims over the Vatican’s purchase of the building.
The case could throw rare light on a complex web of transactions involving Swiss banks, Luxembourg investment houses and, allegedly, millions of pounds worth of donations from Roman Catholics as part of the annual Peter’s Pence appeal.
Millionaire financier Raffaele Mincione (pictured on the left with art gallery boss Kadee Ratibor in 2017) was previously engaged to Heather Mills (right)
The ornate terracotta-fronted building at 60 Sloane Avenue was built in 1911 and is due to be converted into 49 luxury flats, reported The Times.
It is now owned by SA60 Ltd, the registered office of law firm Mishcon de Reya, but has been ultimately controlled by the Vatican since November 2018.
How the death of ‘God’s Banker’ in 1982 prompted dark claims of a mafia murder
A spotlight was placed on the Vatican’s financial dealings in 1982 after a leading Italian banker was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in an officially-unsolved incident.
Roberto Calvi, who was known as ‘God’s Banker’ due to his close ties with the Vatican, was wearing an expensive jacket weighed down with bricks and stuffed with cash.
Roberto Calvi, who was known as ‘God’s Banker’
Calvi was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, which had recently collapsed as part of a scandal that implicated a senior Vatican official and prompted dark rumours of laundered Mafia drug money.
Italian police concluded Calvi had taken his own life but his son, Carlo Calvi, commissioned an independent forensic report, which concluded in October 2002 that he had been murdered.
In 2005, Italian prosecutors brought murder charges against five suspects but all were acquitted after the subsequent trial in Rome. His son remains convinced he was murdered by the Mafia.
Vatican authorities opened a criminal investigation into the deal last year and on October 2 officers led by the Pope’s bodyguard Domenico Giani raided two key Vatican officers, the Financial Information Authority and the Secretariat of State.
The subsequent leak and publication in Italian media of an internal police notice bearing pictures of five Vatican employees suspended following the raids left the Vatican in turmoil.
The shaven-headed Giani, who was often seen by the pope’s side or running along beside the popemobile as it moved through crowds, signed the notice which showed the five, including a woman, in a format similar to a ‘most wanted’ flyer.
Pope Francis was said to be furious over the leak of the notice though they were not formally suspected of anything and while the investigation was still in its infancy.
A raid also took place on the home of the office of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, 59, a former senior official in the secretariat of state.
It came days after the Pope revealed his concerns about ‘suspicious financial situation, which aside from their possible unlawfulness are not in keeping with the nature and purpose of the church’.
Vatican News, the church’s information service, said the official probe surrounded claims of corruption, embezzlement and abuse of authority.
Gianluigi Torzi, 41, a financial adviser who served as a middleman in the sale, was later charged with extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering, according to Swiss media. He was later released on bail on June 15.
Mr Mincione had his phone and tablet computers seized by police but has always denied wrongdoing.
He has now lodged two separate High Court legal claims against the Vatican. One has been filed on behalf of his Luxenbourg-based Athena Capital Fund against the secretariat of state, while separately his WRM Group is suing SA60 Ltd.
No specific details about the nature of the claims are currently available.
The Vatican, Mr Mincione, his lawyers and Mr Torzi all declined to comment when contacted by The Times.
Mr Mincione previously owned 60 Sloane Avenue, which once housed the Harrods showroom, and has now begun two legal claims over the Vatican’s purchase of the building
Pope Francis, who spoke in public about a ‘suspicious financial situation after officials first began investigating the property deal