The filing of a €500m (£430m) lawsuit against Credit Suisse and Citco over the loss of millions in charitable funds through a Chelsea property deal has led to calls for greater transparency around the “origins of money used to purchase high-value property” in Britain.
The calls come after Anglo-Italian financier Raffaele Mincione’s WRM Group filed a €500m lawsuit in a Luxembourg court, over claims the Swiss and British Virgin Islands’ banks failed to disclose that the €350m used to buy 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea came from the Vatican’s “Peter’s Pence” charitable fund.
Mincione’ investment fund is now seeking €500m in damages over the “financial and reputational harms” both Mincione and WRM Group have suffered in the wake of the Chelsea deal, on the back of claims Citco and Credit Suisse failed to say the funds were intended for the needy.
Joseph Sinclair, a legal researcher at Spotlight on Corruption, said: “The whole murky and sorry affair shows the vital need for transparency,” as he suggested the situation “could have been avoided with proper rigorous checks and procedures by those undertaking the deal.”
The calls come as the government has so far failed to bring its plans for a property ownership register into force, despite first laying out for the register in 2018.
WRM Group’s lawsuit comes as Mincione faces criminal proceedings in the Vatican, after the it charged the exec with fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering, over his own role in the Chelsea property deal.
The Vatican pressed charges against the exec after it lost £100m in charitable funds, following the sale of the former Harrods warehouse to US invemstment fund Bain Capital for £200m last year due to plummeting prime central London real estate prices.
WRM Group said the charges have seen Swiss authorities freeze €50m worth of Mincione’s assets, increased WRM Group’s funding and financing costs, and led to the abandonment of several large projects.
A Credit Suisse spokesperson said the investment bank “will defend itself vigorously against this claim brought by WRM Group which is unfounded and without merit. The allegations seem to be designed to merely divert attention away from Mr. Mincione,” the Credit Suisse spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Citco said: “We must highlight that Citco is not involved in the original legal proceedings with the Vatican. Citco disputes the accusation in question and plans to defend its position against WRM Group’s wholly unfounded claim.”