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The Vatican could lose millions over London property sale

Recent reports suggest that the Vatican is about to close a deal with two private-equity firms to sell a London commercial building at the centre of one of the major scandals of Pope Francis’ office.

If it goes through, the likely price will be close to $230 million, which is more than $100 million less than the Vatican’s total investment in the commercial building situated in London’s Sloane Avenue.

The Vatican purchased an office in London using more than $499 million from funds intended to support the Pope’s charitable works.

The subsequent scandal over the purchase of the property in 2019 and the behaviour of former Vatican officials, principally Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was formerly in charge of donations at the secretariat that handles Vatican funds, led to a trial that started in the Vatican earlier this year and will resume later this month.

Cardinal Becciu was sacked by the Pope in September, as reports of financial misdeeds emerged. A two-year investigation exposed how the Vatican lost millions in the deal.

The Cardinal, the most senior cleric in modern times to face trial for alleged financial crimes, is accused of channelling money to businesses run by his brothers in their native Sardinia.

Nine additional defendants are accused of crimes as part of this investigation, including extortion, embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of office.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted, said: “In such a complex case, forensic accountants will follow the various money trails, including the purchase of the property and the use of the charitable donations to the Holy See, known as called Peter’s Pence or Denarii Sancti Petri, “Alms of St Peter”.

“Forensic accountancy evidence is likely to have played an important role in the decision to prosecute Cardinal Angelo Becciu and is likely to be examined by the court and tested by the rigorous cross-examination of  expert witnesses.

“This case has caused huge embarrassment to the Catholic Church.  Often a fear of damage to an organisation’s reputation that results from corruption scandals means that charities and commercial businesses can be reluctant to report wrongdoing.  However a cover-up may not be a legitimate option if it results in a breach of reporting obligations in relation to criminal activity or money laundering.”

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