Vatican looks to sell luxury London building amid financial scandal

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The Vatican is considering the sale of a luxury London building embroiled in a financial scandal that drew papal condemnation and an investigation into those involved in its purchase seven years ago.

Now the authorities of the walled city state within Chelsea have invited brokers to pitch for options that include the potential sale of 60 Sloane Avenue in Rome, people with knowledge of the process said.

The building is valued at around 200 million pounds, the people said, asking not to be identified because the process is private. The property is located in one of the most sought-after zip codes in the capital. The Vatican confirmed that a sale is one of the options on the table, while adding that there was no rush to reach a decision.

The building was originally developed as a car showroom for Harrods department store and spans more than 170,000 square feet of office space with a neo-classical terracotta facade. It has the permission to be converted into 49 luxury apartments.

Selling the building would rid the Vatican of a toxic asset, as dealings over the building prompted an investigation into the 2014 investment which saw the city-state lose money as several Vatican officials and intermediaries were hauled in.

The Vatican's losses in the deal amount to between 66 million and 150 million pounds, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, who heads the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See which manages the real estate holdings, told Catholic newspaper Avvenire last year.

The Vatican also bought a stake in the project and later invested further funds to buy it outright with concerns raised about high fees that are actually pocketed by Italian newspapers.

Galantino said that among the reasons for the losses tied to the building were mistakes or high acts being investigated by the Vatican, as well as frauds on mortgages involving the property, the depreciation of the pound, the economic crisis due to the pandemic and uncertainty over Brexit.

The controversy collides with the message Pope Francis tried to convey. He once called money the devil's dung and made the clean-up of the Catholic Church's finances a pillar of his papacy.

To drive the point home, he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who previously served as Secretariat of State in the Vatican and has been linked to the property deal.

Becciu, who has not been placed under investigation, has denied any wrongdoing.

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