Pope Francis Faces UN Investigation Over Alleged Illegal Wiretappings In Embezzlement Scandal

Pope Francis faces a U.N. investigation for allegedly authorizing illegal wiretappings of phones during the Vatican embezzlement trial linked to the sale of luxury London real estate.

The Telegraph reported on Sunday that lawyers of British financier Raffaele Mincione, who is accused of defrauding the Vatican in a London real estate deal, filed a complaint to the United Nations for alleged human rights abuses committed by the Pope during the trial.

According to the Telegraph, the complaint is addressed to the U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, and lists the Pope as a “perpetrator” of human rights abuses.

Leading human rights lawyer Rodney Dixon, who represents Mincione, has accused Francis of personally authorizing illegal wiretaps of Mincione’s phone during investigations into the investor’s alleged wrongdoing.

“This unreasoned authorisation to prosecutors by an absolute monarch greenlit the undertaking of surveillance without the articulation of definite reasons, ongoing judicial or other independent and impartial supervision, or a mechanism by which to challenge the implementation of the surveillance before an independent and impartial tribunal,” Dixon argued.

During the Vatican embezzlement trial, which began in 2021, reports emerged that the Roman Pontiff authorized phone wiretaps during investigations into the financial scandal.

The New York Post pointed out that in April 2021 Pope Francis amended Vatican law to facilitate prosecutions for cardinals and bishops. Days later, the Pontiff reportedly ordered “the adoption of technological tools suitable for intercepting fixed and mobile devices, as well as any other communication, including electronic ones,” according to leaked documents.

Shortly thereafter, Vatican officials and Italian police officers reportedly seized Mincione’s phones and computer while the businessman was on vacation.

In December of last year, a Vatican tribunal convicted Mincione, alongside Cardinal Angelo Becciu and several other defendants, sentencing him to five-and-a-half years in prison.

In his complaint to the U.N., Dixon argued that Mincione cannot be sentenced by a Vatican court on the basis of canon law for a “secular transaction.”

“It is not appropriate for religious tenets to be imposed on the regulation of a secular transaction without the consent of those involved in the transaction,” Dixon said in the complaint.

Dixon also criticized the alleged surveillance of Mincione’s lawyers while they were in Rome for the trial in front of the Vatican tribunal. He said the lawyers seemed to be “victims of interference if not intimidation” at the “instigation” of the Vatican.

Mincione told the Telegraph:

My basic rights have been trampled on and been ignored. How can it be correct that I have been handed criminal penalties for breaches of spiritual law which only applies to members of the Church, which don’t seem to apply to anyone else that handles the Vatican’s investments, and which I didn’t know anything about?

The Telegraph report states that Mincione is appealing his conviction by the Vatican court “on the basis that he was actually cleared of the criminal offences from the original indictment and only convicted of new offences introduced at the 11th hour and based on the Vatican’s canonical – religious, not criminal – law.”

The Vatican has maintained that it acted lawfully. The Telegraph quotes a Vatican spokesperson who said, “The legitimacy of the investigations and the correspondence of the Vatican judiciary system to the principles of fair trial has been recognised by various foreign courts.”

The Vatican trial around the luxury London flat

The Vatican embezzlement trial involving Mincione, Cardinal Becciu, and other defendants chiefly centered on a Vatican property investment in London, which Becciu authorized as Substitute for General Affairs at the Vatican Secretariat of State. In 2014, Becciu bought a stake in 60 Sloane Avenue, a luxury London real estate development using charitable funds from the Vatican as collateral for loans of 200 million euros (around $260 million using conversion rates at the time) that were then funneled through a fund operated by Raffaele Mincione.

Mincione joined Becciu in the dock, was found guilty of “embezzlement” and money laundering, and was handed the same sentence of five-and-a-half years in jail, an €8,000 fine, and a permanent ban on public office.

Mincione’s company had purchased the property in 2012 and sold a stake in it to the Vatican. When the Vatican finalized its buyout in 2018 – courtesy of Becciu and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, Becciu’s former secretary – Mincione made around £128 million from the Vatican in the process.

It was these transactions that Becciu is believed to have “personally authorized” and to have kept them hidden from attention of Cardinal George Pell, then-Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

As controversy and scandal grew around the property in late 2020, the Vatican initiated its own corruption investigation into Becciu’s dealings in late 2020 – by which time he was prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and had been since 2018. Francis at this point accepted Becciu’s resignation, when the cardinal renounced his cardinal privileges, while retaining the title.

Becciu was then indicted July 2021 by the Vatican Tribunal with Mincione and eight others also indicted for corruption. Becciu was personally charged with “embezzlement and abuse of office, also in collaboration, as well as subornation.”

In July 2022, the Vatican sold the London building at the heart of the ongoing investigation, with a reported loss of $200 million, as the AP estimated the Vatican had spent around €350 million (around $359 million) in purchasing the building initially.

In December 2023, the Vatican court sentenced nine of the 10 defendants, including Mincione and Becciu, to financial penalties and jail time.

Becciu and his lawyers have maintained his innocence and claimed that Pope Francis himself had supported the London investment deal.


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