Vatican, de Franssu: “Pressure from the Secretariat of State on the London building”

The trial for the financial scandal – The president of the Institute for religious works was questioned as a witness

“We were under constant pressure from the Secretariat of State to disburse the 150 million euro loan to pay off the mortgage on the London Palace.” This was claimed by the president of the IOR, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, heard as a witness in the trial before the Vatican Tribunal for the financial scandal linked to the sale of the London building on Sloane Avenue. In particular, de Franssu was questioned by the lawyers of the civil parties.

De Franssu, retracing the process of the story linked to the London Palace, recalled that in 2019 the Secretariat of State had asked the IOR for a loan of 150 million euros to liquidate the loan weighing on the Palace and for which the secretariat of State he would have had to pay a rate much higher than the current rate at the time, equal to “12 per cent”. De Franssu specified in this regard: “Even if it is always baptized as a bank, the IOR is not. Issuing loans would have led to problems for monitoring and therefore there would have been a need to change the company name of the institution. Our concern was to avoid incurring money laundering charges”.

Regarding the position of the AIF, the Vatican’s financial supervisory body, de Franssu maintained: “There was a certain inconsistency, especially in recent years. Our position, on the other hand, was clear from the start”. The IOR, noted de Franssu, “gave a negative opinion on the funding requested by the secretariat of state on 9 July 2019”. The following July 25, Cardinal Pietro Parolin called a meeting with the heads of the IOR, the AIF and the Secretariat of State whose purpose, explained de Franssu, “was to verify the possibility of finding different solutions”. At the end of the meeting, de Franssu reported, Pena Parra, substitute secretary of state, allegedly called him and the board of the IOR “incompetent”, and then, taking him aside, said: “But why are you so stubborn? You know that if you grant the loan we will protect you”. The formal request for the loan had reached the IOR through a letter from Cardinal Parolin on 4 March 2019, and on 24 May the AIF with another letter authorized to proceed with the granting of the loan. “Which, however – reported de Franssu – did not exempt us from the checks that the Institute had to carry out”.

During the hearing, Alessandro Nardi, a former IOR official in charge of the Compliance Office, was also heard as a witness, who reported, among other things, a meeting with Fabrizio Tirabassi, one of the ten defendants in the trial, at a restaurant in Rome ‘ lo Scarpone’ on 27 June 2019: “I felt threatened by certain statements by Tirabassi – reported Nardi -. He told me that there were dangerous people behind the London deal”. Statements later denied by Tirabassi in a spontaneous declaration.