Saturday 21 October 2017

Holy See hits out at seizure of files 'due for Pope'

Nicole Winfield

The Vatican chastised Italian authorities yesterday for seizing documents intended for the Pope during a raid on the home of the recently ousted Vatican bank chief.

The Vatican pointed out that the Holy See is a sovereign state whose officials and documents enjoy immunity protection.

In a statement, it said it expected that Italian judicial authorities would respect its internationally recognised sovereign status in any proceedings concerning Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.

Italian paramilitary police raided Mr Gotti Tedeschi's Piacenza home on Tuesday as part of a corruption investigation into Italy's state-controlled aerospace giant Finmeccanica.

He is not under investigation, and at the time of the raid, prosecutors said the search had nothing to do with Mr Gotti Tedeschi's recently terminated role as president of the Vatican bank.

But during the raid, police seized documentation Mr Gotti Tedeschi had prepared for Pope Benedict XVI concerning his controversial dismissal on May 24 as president of the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR).

In an unprecedentedly harsh move, the bank's board fired Mr Gotti Tedeschi in a no-confidence vote, accusing him of leaking documents, failing to do his job and impeding the Vatican's efforts to be more transparent in its financial dealings.

Mr Gotti Tedeschi's lawyer revealed on Thursday that the documentation seized contained his client's responses to the board's accusations against him.

The seizure and subsequent questioning by prosecutors about Mr Gotti Tedeschi's role at the bank posed potentially thorny legal issues, since Mr Gotti Tedeschi enjoys some form of immunity as a former official of a foreign sovereign, the Vatican.

It's not clear what was contained in the seized documentation -- some news reports say there were 47 folders seized. But official Holy See documentation could be considered protected under the Vatican's sovereign status were prosecutors to try to get it admitted in any court proceedings.

Mr Gotti Tedeschi and the IOR's general manager were placed under investigation in 2010 by Rome prosecutors for alleged violations of Italy's anti-money laundering norms in conducting a routine transaction from an IOR account at an Italian bank.

Dismissal

Prosecutors seized some €23m from the account but eventually returned it after the Vatican passed an anti-money laundering law that went into effect last year.

Mr Gotti Tedeschi has long called the investigation the result of a misunderstanding. He hasn't been charged.

Mr Gotti Tedeschi's dismissal and subsequent raid on his home has convulsed a Vatican already reeling from the leaks of documents from the Pope's desk that ended up in a recently published book, documentation that paints a picture of a Catholic Church hierarchy as little more than a group of petty, provincial Italian bureaucrats who are engaged in Machiavellian power struggles.

Already, Pope Benedict's butler has been arrested in the leaks case.

Irish Independent

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