The justice ministry has sent initial documents to the Vatican as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering related to a London property deal in which some Swiss banks are said to be involved.
This is according to information obtained by the German-language paper NZZ am Sonntagexternal link, which confirmed with justice ministry spokesperson Raphael Frei that it received the request for legal assistance in this matter in a “diplomatic note dated April 30, 2020” from the Vatican.
The case dates back to 2012 when the State Secretariat of the Vatican decided to invest an estimated CHF300 million ($310 million) in a property in London with plans to build luxury apartments.
The funds from the Holy See are said to have been invested by Italian investment manager Raffaele Mincione who has ties to Switzerland including a residence and investments in luxury hotels in the country. Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse were also involved in the deal.
The Vatican’s prosecutor opened an investigation into the funds last October after it emerged that some of the money invested came from donations to the Peter’s Pence charitable collection. There was also suspicion of bribery and money laundering by Vatican employees. Last November, the Pope called the revelations a “scandal”.
According to the newspaper, the justice ministry did not provide more information about what precisely was requested. An unnamed source confirmed to the paper that funds have been blocked at Swiss banks, but it is not known which ones and who owns the accounts.
Credit Suisse spokesperson Anitta Tuure told the paper that “Credit Suisse is not the subject of the Vatican’s investigation, but is working with the authorities to comply with applicable regulations”.