(Bloomberg) -- A businessman accused of extorting Vatican officials during the purchase of a valuable London property should be sent back to Italy to face criminal charges, a British judge ruled.
Gianluigi Torzi, 42, is wanted by Italian authorities on fraud and money laundering charges. The businessman is alleged to have conspired to defraud the Vatican’s diplomatic and political arm in connection with the purchase of the London property in 2018.
Torzi’s lawyers had argued that he was at risk of double jeopardy if returned to Italy and could face trial on the same matters twice. He’s insisted Italian authorities have been misled by their Vatican counterparts.
Torzi will remain on bail and his lawyers said they’ll seek permission to appeal.
The Vatican in total spent some 350 million euros ($396 million) acquiring the luxury real estate and paying off charges, according to a March judgment. The Chelsea development was bought for 129 million pounds just six years earlier.
The Vatican trial on the purchase of the Sloane Square building is currently on hold, after the judge said the prosecutor had overlooked some procedural steps. The prosecutor is now carrying out further investigations and is expected to eventually restarting pressing charges.
Originally developed as a car showroom for the Harrods department store, the building spans more than 170,000 square feet (16,000 square meters) of offices and retail space with a neo-classical terracotta facade.
The Vatican is now looking to sell the building.
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