The first-ever trial with the Vatican as a defendant could take place on British territory, The Daily Telegraph reported, citing the Court of Appeal for England and Wales.
According to the article, the possible lawsuit is based on a story about irregularities and abuses in the purchase of real estate in London in 2014 for £124 million (about $150 million at the rate of August 7). At issue is the high-profile case of the Vatican's knowingly high-priced purchase of a building in the center of the British capital as an investment through donations. Financial leakage is estimated by the investigation from tens to hundreds of millions of euros.
The trial in the case began in the Vatican last July, and the 11 defendants, including high-ranking cardinal Angelo Becciu, are charged with fraud, abuse, providing false information, corruption, money laundering, and disclosure of secret documents.
British financier Raffaele Mincione was among those against whom charges were brought. According to the Vatican, he committed fraud by artificially inflating the price of the property when the companies sold it in 2018. However, the businessman disputed these charges in a British court, insisting that he had not committed anything illegal. He also argued that the valuation of the property, the former Harrods department store warehouse in Chelsea, which was intended to be converted into luxury housing, was made by independent experts and was correct.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Court of Appeal for England and Wales upheld Mincione. In the verdict, the date of which is not specified, he ruled that the British court had the right to examine the documents on the sale of real estate and decide whether all parties to the transaction, both the companies Mincione and the Vatican acted in good faith. The newspaper specifies that the principle of immunity of the sovereign state from civil liability referred to by the Vatican lawyers is not applicable in this case because it is a commercial transaction.
At this point, it is unclear who exactly will be the witnesses in this case from the papal city-state, or when the case might be heard.
Notably, the internal investigation at the Vatican began after a signal from the Vatican bank Institute of Religious Affairs (IOR), and a media leak led to the resignation of the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani. He resigned, taking responsibility for his subordinates who allegedly shared the information with journalists.
Pope Francis believes that it is legitimate to invest church money in order to multiply it for charitable purposes. The current pontiff has introduced a series of reforms to the Vatican's judicial system. This is the first time that such a high-ranking member of the curia, Becciu, has been tried in the papal city-state, with secular judges, Ansa notes. It is also the largest trial in Vatican history for financial crimes.