Vatican stands trial in English High Court

Foto: Pixabay

In what was the first time the Holy See has been forced to stand trial in a foreign court, the Vatican went on trial in a London court on Wednesday.  

It is also the first time that another court is able to override the sovereign state’s immunity.

This happened as British financier Raffaele Mincione sought to recover from the harm he said he suffered to his reputation as a result of a Vatican investigation into its 350 million euro investment in a London property.

In 2013, the Vatican invested 100 million euros in a Mincione fund, acquiring 45% of a former Harrod’s warehouse in London that it hoped to develop into rental luxury apartments, but ultimately ended up owning the entire property.

Mincione and his firm Athena Capital Fund acted as investment manager for the Vatican Secretariat of State from 2014 to 2018, when the Vatican’s secretariat of state decided to exit the fund but wanted to retain its ownership of the property. Another London-based broker, Gianluigi Torzi, helped negotiate a 40 million euro payout to Mincione.

Vatican prosecutors alleged that Torzi and Mincione, who had had previous business dealings, were working together from the start and conspired to defraud the Holy See of millions of euros. They also allege that the Secretariat substantially overpaid for the property and its actions were linked to corruption and fraud.

At the Vatican court, Mincione was accused of breaking Canon 1284 of the Code of Canon Law: “all administrators are bound to fulfil their function with the diligence of a good householder”.

Mincione argues this doesn’t apply to him as he doesn’t have a position in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican lost around 100 million euros in the process.

A Vatican tribunal has already convicted Mincione of an embezzlement-related charge and sentenced him to more than five years in prison for his role in the London deal, accusing him of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, extortion, corruption and abuse of office, which Minione says was a breach of his human rights.

However, Mincione, still free and pending an appeal, lodged a counter civil claim against the Holy See’s secretariat of state at London’s High Court, has asked the London High Court to approve a series of declarations asserting that he indeed acted in good faith in his dealings with the secretariat of state, that the Holy See knowingly and lawfully entered into the transactions in question and have no grounds to make any claims against Mincione as a result.

The Holy See had tried unsuccessfully to quash Mincione’s claim and in pleadings urged the court to refuse to agree to the declarations Mincione is seeking, reports Yahoo News. 

The trial is expected to last a few weeks and feature the in-person testimony of Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, third in the secretariat of state.

Mincione’s phones and computers were seized in Rome and he and his lawyers were followed. Archbishop Parra liaised with the Pope over the case and his WhatsApp messages were disclosed to Mincione’s lawyers.

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