The Vatican announced on Friday it had ended a disastrous real estate investment in central London on which it lost millions and which has spawned a major corruption trial.
APSA, which operates as the Vatican’s treasury and central bank, sold the building in 60 Sloane Avenue, in the ritzy Knightsbridge neighborhood, for 186 million pounds (223 million euros) “in the last few days,” a statement said.
The sale might finally bring closure to a highly embarrassing saga for Pope Francis, a pontiff who claimed, when he was elected on a reform-mandate in 2013, that he wanted to lead “a poor church, for the poor.”
The property was acquired between 2014 and 2018, through various complicated financial deals through which the Vatican claims to have been defrauded by middlemen acting in cahoots with some of its employees.
Last year, 10 people were put on trial on charges including corruption, abuse of office and embezzlement, mostly in connection to the botched London property deal. In one hearing, prosecutors estimated Vatican losses from the affair at 217 million euros.
The trial, the biggest ever to be handled by the Vatican’s tiny criminal justice system, has also made history as a cardinal, Angelo Becciu, is for the first time among the defendants. Becciu is accused of misusing Vatican funds, in charges unrelated to the London deal.
All defendants deny any wrongdoing, and the trial has advanced slowly, amid complaints from defense lawyers about serious procedural flaws, such as them having been granted insufficient access to evidence produced by the prosecution.