Last October the Vatican judiciary launched an investigation into alleged Vatican corruption around financial and real estate investments which led to the suspension of five Holy See employees.

A sixth suspect

That investigation has now been enlarged, with the news today from the Holy See Press Office that “within the context of a search ordered by the Promoter of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, and by the Adjunct Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, documents and computer equipment in Monsignor Alberto Perlasca’s house and office were seized”.

Monsignor Perlasca is a former head of the Administrative Office of the First Section of the Secretariat of State. He is originally from Como, Italy, is 59 years old, and as of July 2019 has been exercising the office of substitute Promoter of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

Thus, Monsignor Perlasca becomes the sixth suspect in the investigation.

Alleged embezzlement, abuse of authority and corruption in real estate deals

The Holy See communiqué states that, “the measure was undertaken pursuant to the investigation into financial and real estate investments by the Secretariat of State, and is linked, while respecting the presumption of innocence, to what emerged in the initial interrogations of the officials under investigation who had already been suspended”.

The Promoter of Justice’s Office and the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State are proceeding with an investigation at the administrative and financial levels, in collaboration with foreign investigative bodies.

The investigation seeks to substantiate the allegation of specific crimes, such as embezzlement, abuse of authority and corruption.

As has already been reported, the investigation was initiated by the Vatican judiciary in response to reports received from internal supervisory financial organisms, from the Vatican Bank (IOR), and the Auditor General.

As specified in the communiqué, the principle of the presumption of innocence applies to all parties involved, even if the documentation examined in these months seems to reinforce the underlying allegations.

It is possible that the investigatory phase of the process will conclude toward the beginning of summer.

Pope: “Suspicious financial situations not in keeping with the nature of the Church”

On opening the judicial year in the Vatican on Saturday, 15 February, Pope Francis mentioned the investigation regarding the management of funds and real estate (such as that of Sloane Avenue in London).

He spoke of “suspicious financial situations, which aside from their possible unlawfulness, are not in keeping with the nature and purpose of the Church, and have generated disorientation and anxiety in the community of the faithful”.

The Pope then added that, “a positive fact is that precisely in this case, the first reports were made by internal Vatican Authorities, active, albeit with different competences, in the economic and financial sectors. This demonstrates the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement actions, as required by international standards”.

Becciu again denies wrongdoing

Today’s police raid on Perlasca’s home and office comes just a day after former substitute secretary for general affairs – or chief of staff – in the Vatican Secretariat of State from 2011-2018, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, again denied any wrongdoing in the London real estate deal, saying that allegations he was linked to the apparent Vatican corruption “made me suffer”.

With regard to accusations that the Secretariat of State used Peter’s Pence donations from faithful around the world to speculate on the property, Becciu – now Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints – said: “I want to deny this because we did not use that money”.

“Peter’s Pence was not affected; an investment was made on a building. It was a good and opportune occasion, which many people envy us for today. With Brexit, the value of the building has tripled”, Becciu affirmed.

He added that the Peter’s Pence donations meant for the poor had not suffered any loss, but had even “gained interest”.

The cardinal clarified that he had spoken to the Pope about the real estate investment and that, in the end, “the Pope will decide whether it is to be maintained or sold but there are no losses”.

On the fact that four of his former colleagues – or now five, with Perlasca – are being investigated for alleged wrongdoing, Becciu reiterated that the suspicions around his former co-workers were based on “facts that occurred between February 2019 to October 2019”, after Becciu had left the Secretariat of State.

“I can speak because I am not among the suspects”, the cardinal explained, pointing out too that “as for my collaborators, I have known them as honest people, dedicated to duty and faithful.

“Let’s wait. I have faith in the judiciary”, Becciu concluded, lamenting the fact that his former colleagues “are suffering so much” in the investigation.

“There was something that didn’t go well”

Yesterday Becciu also admitted to the Italian edition of the Huffington Post that “not everything was clear” about the Secretariat of State’s London investment.

“Someone saw and had doubts; they asked to check”, Becciu said.

“So, I mean, did everything go well? No, there was something that didn’t go well, but to the best of my knowledge, at least as far as we know, [those responsible] are people foreign to the Vatican.

“The judiciary is investigating [thisse people], I don’t know, it may be that we discovered things, [but] by then I was gone”, Becciu insisted, declaring too that “it’s well-known that someone has taken advantage of our situation”.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.