Vatican Financial Scandal Deepens as Search Uncovers Cash, Gold Coins in Official’s Home

Pope Francis

ROME — The Vatican’s ongoing financial scandals show no sign of letting up as police have uncovered hundreds of thousands of euros in cash along with precious gold coins and medallions hidden in two homes of a suspended Vatican official.

According to a report by Italian investigative journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, the stash of former Vatican administrator Fabrizio Tirabassi included several pounds of gold and silver coins as well as 600,000 euros in cash, much of which was stuffed into an old shoebox.

The total worth of the prize seized by Italian financial police was over two million euros, Fittipaldi wrote, and was divided between the house of the former Vatican official and a storage space owned by his 90-year-old father in the town of Celano, in central Italy’s Abruzzo region.

Tirabassi’s father used to run a small coin and stamp shop near the Vatican, reports state, which could help explain the immense find of valuable coins.

Fabrizio Tirabassi is an accountant who worked under disgraced Cardinal Angelo Becciu at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State until he was suspended last year together with four other employees. Mr. Tirabassi has been tied to the Vatican’s notorious purchase of millions of dollars’ worth of real estate in London’s upscale Chelsea neighborhood.

Tirabassi allegedly issued the Vatican — and was paid — some 15 million euros of false invoices over time and among his accounts is one in the Vatican Bank itself containing over a million euros.

The Vatican is investigating Tirabassi along with Italian businessmen Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi and the former banker from Crédit Suisse Enrico Crasso in relation with the London real estate purchase.

Last December, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera revealed the Vatican had invested more than a million dollars to finance the Rocketman film, a steamy biopic of singer-songwriter Elton John with a graphic scene of gay sex.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State had also invested in Lapo Elkann’s eyewear and “lifestyle products” company, the report stated, using money donated by the Catholic faithful through worldwide “Peter’s Pence” collections.

Holy See prosecutors looked into a series of Vatican investments made through the Malta-based Centurion Global Fund that financed projects including real estate, mineral water, websites, and films.

Through the fund, the Vatican became a 25 percent partner in Elkann’s company Italia Independent to the tune of 6 million euros, while also becoming a €10 million partner with industrialist Enrico Preziosi, the chairman of the Genoa soccer team.

Last month, Pope Francis attacked the “worship of the ancient golden calf” and the “idolatry of money,” two weeks after sacking a prominent Vatican cardinal for financial impropriety.

“It seems that in many places the supremacy of money over human beings is taken for granted,” the pope told representatives of Moneyval, Europe’s money laundering watchdog.

“Sometimes, in the effort to amass wealth, there is little concern for where it comes from, the more or less legitimate activities that may have produced it, and the mechanisms of exploitation that may be behind it,” Francis said. “Thus, situations can occur where, in touching money, we get blood on our hands, the blood of our brothers and sisters.”


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