Wed, Jan 23, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Vatican built secret property empire with cash handed over by Mussolini

The Guardian

From the outset, Nogara was innovative in investing the cash. In 1931 records show he founded an offshore company in Luxembourg to hold the continental European property assets he was buying. It was called Groupement Financier Luxembourgeois, hence Grolux. Luxembourg was one of the first countries to set up tax-haven company structures in 1929. The UK end, called British Grolux, was incorporated the following year.

When war broke out, with the prospect of a German invasion, the Luxembourg operation and ostensible control of the British Grolux operation were moved to the US and to neutral Switzerland.

The Mussolini investments in Britain are currently controlled, along with its other European holdings and a currency trading arm, by a papal official in Rome, Paolo Mennini, who is in effect the pope’s merchant banker. Mennini heads a special unit inside the Vatican that handles the so-called “patrimony of the Holy See.”

According to a report last year from the Council of Europe, the assets of Mennini’s special unit now exceed 680 million euros (US$909 million).

While secrecy about the Fascist origins of the papacy’s wealth might have been understandable in wartime, what is less clear is why the Vatican continued to maintain secrecy about its holdings in Britain.

The Vatican’s representative in London, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, had no comment.

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