Saturday, June 3, 2023

Neighbours fume about ‘hellish noise’ at Vatican-owned London flat


A £30,000 per week luxury flat in central London that is owned by the Vatican has become the subject of complaints from local residents over what they claim was “hellish noise” from late night gatherings.

Some residents in Hans Place in Chelsea, one of London’s most expensive addresses, have complained to the local council and even the Holy See’s ambassador to the UK about loud events, some involving DJs, held at the Vatican property.

The purchase of the flat and several other luxury London properties in 2014 was overseen by cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who this month became the first cardinal in modern times to be charged with financial crimes by the Vatican.

The properties are held through Jersey shell companies by the Holy See unit in charge of so-called Peters Pence charitable donations that are intended for the poor and needy. Investments overseen by Becciu using this money have come under mounting international scrutiny as a result of the allegations brought against him and several other Vatican officials.

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu defended the investments in London prime property made by the Holy See unit he oversaw, saying that they were a normal and responsible use of Vatican assets © Gregorio Borgia/AP

The currently unoccupied 9,000 square feet triplex apartment on Hans Place features a large garden and indoor swimming pool installed as part of a multimillion pound refurbishment. It is currently advertised for rent for £30,000 a week on behalf of the company managing it for the Holy See.

The company managing the property, which has had several tenants over the past year, said it had not been rented out on short-term leases and it was normal in the London property market for rent to be quoted at a weekly rate.

One resident living nearby, who asked to remain anonymous, said that neighbours had raised various complaints, including to the council, after some people at the property held noisy parties and social gatherings there, including one that went on into the early hours of the morning this May.

In correspondence seen by the Financial Times between residents and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that complained of “hellish noise”, a councillor said that the borough’s “noise and nuisance” team had recently written to a Jersey-incorporated company through which the Vatican owns the property. 

The council has been looking into the complaints, according to correspondence seen by the FT from last month. “With restrictions lifting hopefully people can party in night clubs not in flats,” the councillor wrote in one email sent to residents this month.

One local resident said he had become so frustrated that he complained to the Vatican’s ambassador in the UK. “I have written to Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican ambassador) but they have done nothing about this”.

The office of the Vatican’s UK ambassador responded to the complaint in an email that it hoped “action with the local authority” and others would help resolve the immediate problem.

None of the complainants suggested that any Vatican employees were present at any of the late night gatherings held at the flat.

The Vatican’s indictment of Becciu and nine others in the first week of July marked a dramatic acceleration of Pope Francis’s drive to reform the finances of the Holy See.

Becciu, who was once one of the Vatican’s most powerful clerics, denies any wrong doing. He has defended the investments in London prime property made by the Holy See unit he oversaw, saying that they were a normal and responsible use of Vatican assets.

Becciu had no role in overseeing the rental or management of any London property owned by the Vatican.

The company managing the Vatican property has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Its spokesperson said that it was made aware of a few neighbours’ concerns about noise, lights, and disturbance, which it investigated appropriately, and that it does “not anticipate any recurrence of any issues”. 

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