Vatican arrests Italian in investigation of London real estate deal

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Vatican police on Friday arrested Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian middleman who was part of a deal in which the Vatican purchased a luxury building in London as an investment.

Torzi, who was arrested after questioning by Vatican magistrates, was accused of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering, the Vatican press office said in a statement. Torzi is the first person to be arrested in connection with the deal.

The investigation had led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of the Vatican’s police chief and the departure of the former head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).

Torzi was the Vatican’s fiduciary for the deal, in which the Vatican’s Secretariat of State purchased a building in London’s Chelsea district several years ago for $200 million.

It was not immediately possible to contact lawyers for Torzi.

It is rare for an Italian citizen to be arrested and held in the Vatican. Most of those arrested and held in the past have been either Vatican citizens or Italian employees of the tiny city-state.

The investigation became public on Oct. 1 when Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State, which is the administrative heart of the Catholic Church, and the offices of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF). The police seized documents and computers.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones and Leslie Adler

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