Italy is hardly a stranger to financial horrorshows. Whether it’s fiscal mismanagement, blundering centuries-old banks loaded down with bad loans, a federal government too deep in the red, fears of a populist-backed parallel currency or the shadowy tendrils of the mafia tainting the country’s agri-export business.
And now, what appears to be serious financial corruption scandal has found a direct line to the Quirinal Palace.
So, what exactly is going on? Well, yesterday, the FT reported that a Vatican-backed investment fund that is under investigation by the Vatican authorities had hired Italian PM Giuseppe Conte to negotiate a deal.
Just weeks before Conte took office (for the first time), Conte, then a little-known Florence-based academic, was hired in May 2018 to provide a legal opinion in favour of Fiber 4.0, a shareholder group involved in a fight for control of Retelit, an Italian telecoms company.
The biggest investor in Fiber 4.0 was the Athena Global Opportunities Fund, which was constituted entirely by $200 million from the Vatican Secretariat. The Fund was owned and operated by Raffaele Mincione, an Italian financier.
The news of Conte’s involvement will likely attract more scrutiny of the Fiber 4 deal from the Vatican police. In fact, Conte’s involvement wasn’t widely known until the police raided the all-powerful Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the Church’s most powerful centralized bureaucracy and the source of all the financing for the Fiber 4.0 deal