Italian Accused of Extorting Vatican Bailed for $1.6 Million
(Bloomberg) -- The Italian businessman accused of extorting Vatican officials during the purchase of a valuable London property is set to be bailed after a judge ordered he put up 1.1 million pounds ($1.6 million) in security.
Gianluigi Torzi, 42, can be released on conditional bail, Judge Paul Goldspring said. He was arrested last week in the U.K. at the request of Italian authorities on fraud and money laundering charges. Torzi is alleged to have conspired to defraud the Vatican’s diplomatic and political arm in connection with the purchase of the London property in 2018, according to a separate court judgment.
The judge said he feared Torzi was a flight risk without the large security, calling his financial assets “opaque.”
“There’s a difference in the money you’ve got in your back pocket” and the money you can obtain from your financial assets, the judge said.
The property broker lives in an 18-million pound house in central London with the rent paid by a trust, the judge said. He won’t be released from custody until the full amount is paid and must surrender all his passports.
“His personal wealth is very illiquid,” Rachel Scott, Torzi’s lawyer, said at Westminster Magistrates Court Wednesday.
The Vatican in total spent some 350 million euros ($427 million) acquiring the luxury real estate and paying off charges, according to a March judgment. The Chelsea development was bought for 129 million pounds just six years earlier.
The Vatican is now mulling the sale of the building in one of the most sought-after and rich zip codes in the capital.
Originally developed as a car showroom for the Harrods department store, the building spans more than 170,000 square feet (16,000 square meters) of offices and retail space with a neo-classical terracotta facade.
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