Vatican police perform new raids in London real estate case

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Vatican police conducted new raids as part of a corruption investigation into a botched London real estate venture, focusing on the Vatican prelate who signed the contracts for the deal involving a luxury apartment building.

Documents and computers were seized from the office and home of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, a longtime chief of staff in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican said Tuesday.

A press statement stressed that Perlasca, who was quietly transferred to a post at the Vatican’s high court as the real estate investigation heated up last summer, enjoys the presumption of innocence.

The Vatican prosecutor authorized the raids and searches, which resulted from the interrogations of five people who were suspended after a previous raid, the statement said. Police raided the secretariat of state and the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, the Financial Information Authority, or AIF, on Oct. 1.

To date, Vatican prosecutors haven't charged anyone. The pace and gaps in the case suggested the investigation partly involved a turf war in the Vatican.

The bulk of the Vatican prosecutor’s initial search warrant concerned the secretariat of state's 2012 investment of 150 million euros ($165 million) in a luxury apartment building in London’s Chelsea neighborhood.

The mortgage turned out to be onerous, the property lost its value amid Brexit concerns and middlemen managing the venture were making millions from the Vatican in fees.

The secretariat of state in 2018 decided to buy the building outright but needed an extra 150-million euro loan from the Vatican bank to buy out the other investors and extinguish the mortgage.

The bank director and the auditor general’s office raised an alarm with Vatican prosecutors alleging the buyout looked suspicious, sparking the raids.

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