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Vatican suspends employees over suspicious real estate deals, alleged misuse of donations

The Vatican has suspended five employees over suspicious real estate deals and the alleged misuse of donations, an Italian magazine has claimed.

Driving the news

L’Espresso reported Wednesday that five Vatican workers have been removed from their posts as a result of an ongoing criminal investigation.

That investigation saw Vatican prosecutors order a police raid Tuesday of offices of both the Holy See’s Secretariat of State (or ‘Interior Ministry’) and its Financial Information Authority, or AIF (an anti-money laundering watchdog).

The raid is thought to have been a first in modern Vatican history.

The Vatican Press Office confirmed that agents seized documents and electronic devices linked to complaints regarding “financial transactions carried out over time”.

Those complaints had been brought at the beginning of last summer by the Institute for Works of Religion – the so-called Vatican Bank – and the Vatican Office of the General Auditor.

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L’Espresso said the five employees suspended in the wake of the raid included Tommaso Di Ruzza, director and ‘number two’ at the AIF, and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, the head of documentation at the Secretariat of State.

The other three workers suspended are Vincenzo Mauriello, Fabrizio Tirabassi, and a woman, Caterina Sansone, who each held administrative roles in the Secretariat of State.

L’Espresso published a circular to Vatican guards with each of the five employees’ photographs, instructing them not to let the workers on to Vatican grounds after their suspension.

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The circular also said, however, that Carlino will continue to reside at the Vatican Casa Santa Marta guesthouse, where the Pope also lives.

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Why it matters

L’Espresso reported that the raids on the Secretariat of State and AIF related to the buying and selling of real estate in London and to the management of ‘Peter’s Pence’, the donations made by the faithful directly to the Vatican.

The raids and the suspensions amount to a setback for Pope Francis, who has made cleaning up the murky world of Vatican finances a priority in his pontificate.

The AIF reported in May that the number of reports of suspicious financial activity in the Vatican went down to a six-year low in 2018.

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