Anonymous Letter Raises New Questions About Knights of Malta

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In our extensive summary of the toppling of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta by Rome, we examined the curious reports of an estate left by a wealthy Frenchman that should have resulted in a bequest of millions to the Order. Rather than reconstruct events, I’ll excerpt that portion of our report at length:

On January 25th, The Italian news/tabloid hybrid Dagospia published a fascinating report on the matter. … In it, we read that a wealthy Frenchman, Jehan du Tour, bequeathed a sum of nearly 120 million Swiss francs, naming among his heirs two undisclosed individuals and two charities: the Hospitallers of St. John of God and the French Association of the Order of Malta.

Dagospia reports that the executor of du Tour’s estate, one Mrs. Ariane Slinger of Geneva, created a charitable trust under New Zealand law — known until recently as being exempt from much of the red tape of other nations in the realm of offshore accounts  — called Caritas pro Vitae GRADU Charitable Trust. Such a trust would keep the assets in the bequest undivided, with the executor having the power of the purse when it comes time to pay the beneficiaries. Slinger is the CEO of ACE International, which provides “advisory, management, administration and trustee services”…

According to Dagospia, du Tour passed away in 2012, at which point the Order of Malta, having been made aware of Slinger’s role in controlling the funds by a French member, filed suit against her in Geneva — a suit which could, Dagospia alleges, lead to criminal proceedings against Slinger. (The nature of the suit is unclear from the report.)

And this is where things get really interesting.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was, until February of 2016, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva — which makes him Slinger’s Genevan compatriot. (Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who has been intimately involved in negotiations between the pope and Fra’ Festing, was his boss. Nuncios fall under the Vatican Secretariat of State, Section for General Affairs.) Tomasi — also a member of the Order of Malta — created another foundation called Caritas in Veritate. The website lists the foundation’s long term goal as “to make the positions of the Catholic Church more understandable to third parties and more visible in the open debate held within the United Nations system.” … The treasurer position for Caritas in Vertitate went to Marc Odendall, another member of the Order and an international investment banker who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2014 to the board of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority — a group Fortune magazine says was “set up by Pope Benedict XVI to clean up the Vatican’s financial activities after a string of scandals.”

Caritas in Vertitate has, according to Dagospia,  also organized various conferences involving a Lebanese banker named Marwan Senhaoui, who heads up the Lebanese chapter of the Order of Malta.

The influence of members of the Order at the foundation is, therefore, not insignificant.

In 2014, when Albrecht von Boeselager became Grand Chancellor of the Order, he began, according to Dagospia, to interact with Slinger on some proposals related to the du Tour inheritance. Just what those proposals were remains unclear. But Dagospia asserts that Odendall and Sehnaoui worked together to prepare a report on the matter. A significant amount of interaction via email between these individuals is alleged to have taken place. At one point, Dagospia reports, Slinger addressed Tomasi as “Dear Sylvano” — a surprising informality, unless perhaps they were more familiar with one another than casual acquaintance would permit.

When the new Vatican commission set up to investigate the sacking of Boeselager was announced, it included five members, three of whom are his notable associates with ties to the activities in Geneva: Archbishop Tomasi, Marc Odendall, and Marwan Senhaoui. From Pentin:

The five members of the commission of enquiry are Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s former observer to the United Nations in Geneva; Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Jacques de Liedekerke, a lawyer; Marc Odendall, an investment banker; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

Apart from Father Ghirlanda, all those appointed to the group are members of the order, and most are known allies of Boeselager. Odendall is known to be particularly supportive of Boeselager, and Archbishop Tomasi is a good friend of Odendall, according to sources inside the order.

Pentin also reports that Cardinal Parolin, who seems to be orchestrating a good deal of the Vatican’s involvement in the matter, has been aware of the du Tour bequest since early 2014.

The question remains unanswered as to what level of involvement — if any — the members of the Order who have worked at Caritatis in Veritate have had with Slinger and her Caritatis pro Vita foundation, both located in Geneva.

This is background. This is what we knew at the time, and while it was certainly curious, it was very much shrouded in mystery.

A new letter sent to Italian journalist and vaticanista Sandro Magister, however — from “a person very well-informed on the affairs of the Order” — may help shed more light on the curious case of the 30 million Swiss Francs. Magister writes:

The reply of Eugenio Ajroldi di Robbiate, director of the communications office of the Order of Malta, to what was published on March 23 by Settimo Cielo on “the mystery of those 30 million Swiss francs,” has not been passed over in silence by other knights of the Order, closer to the mental workings of former Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, forced to hand in his resignation last January 24 to Pope Francis in person.

This is what is attested to in the following letter, from a person very well-informed on the affairs of the Order, rich in information that in its turn contradicts, corrects, or completes what has been stated by the official spokesman.

The letter begins by way of an explanation of events that have transpired thus far, including the ouster and later reinstatement of once-and-future Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager and the eventual resignation, by papal request, of Fra’ Matthew Festing as Grand Master of the Order.

And then the topic turns to the question of the money. All emphasis below is my own:

In the previously cited letter of January 14, 2017, the Grand Master announced the completed constitution of a professional commission within the Order to bring clarity on the events of the New Zealand trust. This circumstance generated the strong acceleration of events that led to the forced resignation of the Grand Master himself. Evidently no one wants light to be shed on the trust, its money and where this comes from. Therefore it is not accurate to say that the internal commission did not exist; in fact, its constitution had been officially announced.

The suit against the fiduciary of the CPVG trust had been initiated with a criminal complaint to the public prosecutor on the part of two physical persons, on April 26, 2013. On the same date, the public prosecutor opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown for “Gestion déloyale qualifiée, abus de confiance e blanchiment d’argent.” The Order of Malta and the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God in turn presented a criminal complaint against the same fiduciary, joining the suit on May 10, 2013.

The assets of the CPVG trust were frozen on April 29, 2013. A request from the fiduciary of the trust aimed at getting the assets unfrozen was reject by the criminal appeals court of the Court of Justice in Geneva on April 30, 2014. The assets are still frozen.

With regard to the presumed conflict of interest, reiterated and substantiated by the Grand Master in the letter of January 14, 2017, of three members of the commission appointed by the Secretariat of State on December 21, 2016, it would be rather astonishing if there were an admission of such conflict on the part of the Sectretariat of State itself.

It has been stated by the Order that out of the 30 million Swiss francs kindly donated by the CPVG trust, 3 million have already been distributed.

So then, between 2012 and 2013 Marc Odendall, with what authority it is not clear, negotiated a donation “to the Order of Malta” of around 2 million euros (not 3 million Swiss francs) with the fiduciary of the CPVG trust. Of this 2 million, about one million was distributed to Malteser International (but perhaps Boeselager, as with the condoms, was unaware of it).

100,000 Swiss francs were also donated to a foundation called “Caritas in Veritate,” headed by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, in that it is a project supported by Odendall in his capacity as representative of the international Order of Malta (sic). In 2014, when the assets were frozen, Tomasi and Odendall, together with Marwan Senhaoui, tried to convince then-Grand Master Jean-Pierre Mazery [NB: this is a typo; Mazery was Grand Chancellor until 2014, not Grand Master] to sign a transaction with the fiduciary of the trust. Together with Boeselager after he became Grand Chancellor following Mazery, they continued to solicit the Grand Master over the subsequent years. On December 21, 2016, the three were appointed to the commission set up by the Secretariat of State.

The decision to drop the charges against the CPVG trust in Geneva is thought to have been made by the government of the Order in 2016. But here it would be necessary to better define the government of the Order. In fact neither the Grand Master, who to the very last always denied the authorization to sign, nor the Sovereign Council, which according to some of its members never discussed issues connected to the trust, ever deliberately decided to drop the charges. What the government of the Order could mean, therefore, is not clear and is a concept unknown to the Constitution and Code of the Order.

There is cited a decision in January of 2017 to drop the charges, but any act of governance in the period between December 6, 2016 and January 28, 2017 was declared null first by the Secretariat of State (January 25, 2017) and then by the Sovereign Council, which on January 28, 2017 ratified the action. It would therefore have been necessary to have suspended any action and to have waited for a new Grand Master to take office before signing the transaction.

Am I alone in seeing a connection forming between some of these dots?

As I wrote in January, cited above: “The question remains unanswered as to what level of involvement — if any — the members of the Order who have worked at Caritatis in Veritate have had with Slinger and her Caritatis pro Vita foundation, both located in Geneva.” If the letter to Magister is to be believed, it would appear then that Caritatis in Veritate (CIV) received a sum of 100,000 Swiss Francs somewhere between 2012 and 2014, and apparently this came from the Caritas pro Vitae GRADU (CPVG) trust. CIV, as mentioned above, was founded by Knight of Malta Archbishop Silvio Tomasi, former employee of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. CIV’s treasurer is Marc Odendall, and this letter alleges that it was he who secured the disbursement of the 2 million euros to the Order, of which he is also a member. (The semantics of the letter imply but do not make clear that Odendall also helped to secure the 100,000 Swiss franc donation to CIV.)

And in this new letter, we see again described the collaboration of Tomasi, Odendall, and Marwan Senhaoui in attempting to convince the then-Grand Chancellor to “sign a transaction with the fiduciary of the trust” – a campaign that the letter writer asserts continued with Boeselager’s help when took the position of Grand Chancellor. Tomasi, Odendall, and Senhaoui were then chosen to investigate Boeselager after his ouster by Festing, all of which resulted, as we know, in Boeselager’s reinstatement at the pope’s request, and Festing’s ultimate resignation.

Are we expected to believe this is all just a series of coincidences? Rumor has it that some of the players in this story are…aggressively litigious, so perhaps we’re not supposed to ask.

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