Vatican spy history is central to the resumption of fraud trials

VATICAN – The trial of major fraud and extortion in the Vatican is resumed on Friday after exposing some obscene realities of the Holy See, which focuses on a new spy story that is more in line with thriller 007 than the papacy’s internal actions.

According to testimony received on Thursday, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers led the Italian Secret Service to clear his office for errors and ordered intelligence reports from them, completely bypassing the Vatican police in the process.

The reported actions of Archbishop Edgar Pena Parr, No. 2 at the Vatican Secretariat of State, raise some fundamental questions about the security and sovereignty of the Vatican City State, as he allegedly invited foreign intelligence officers to the Holy See’s inner sanctuary and then handed over a spy to them.

Pena Parra was not charged with any crime, although his subordinates were. They are among 10 people, including a once powerful cardinal, who are on trial at the Vatican Criminal Tribunal in connection with the Vatican’s illegal investment of 350 million euros in London real estate.

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In a lawsuit that resumed on Friday, prosecutors accused the longtime head of the Holy See, Italian brokers and lawyers of depriving the pope of tens of millions in fees and then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to finally get full ownership of the property. .

Pena Parra’s role in the scandal has always been anomalous, as he authorized his subordinates to negotiate final contracts for the deal and then sparked a suspicious transaction message when he demanded a 150m-euro loan from the Vatican Bank to repay a mortgage on the property. But the prosecutor’s office has acquitted him at least for now.

The new testimony, reported by the Italian news agency adnkronos and the daily newspaper Domani and received by the Associated Press on Thursday, gives another twist in the case and highlights Hollywood intrigues that excite the Vatican and are rare. So far.

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One of Pena Parra’s former deputies, Vincenzo Mauriello, told prosecutors that in May or June 2019, after the London deal was completed, Pena Parra told him he wanted to conduct a security check at his office because he believed his private conversations “after a short time became known from the outside.”

Pena Parra asked if he knew Mauriello, whether he knew anyone outside the Vatican security apparatus who could do the job, and Mauriello said he had offered a friend who worked for Italy’s Foreign Intelligence Service AISI. After a previous meeting, spy Andrea Tigneri carried out a sweep on Friday afternoon when there were few people in the palace, Mauriello testified.

Nothing was found. But then Penn Parr asked Tiner to prepare some intelligence dossiers on key figures, Mauriello testified. Tinner and his chief at AISI presented Pena Parr’s findings by handing over a white envelope during one of his many meetings on Vatican soil, he said.

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Adkronas cites unnamed Italian intelligence officials who deny Maurillo’s information. But Vatican prosecutors named Tinner by name in their search warrant as one of Maurill’s contacts and said he had visited the Vatican eight times. Vatican prosecutors apparently were unaware that he was a member of Italy’s foreign intelligence service and that they were detecting and publishing wiretaps of a foreign spy.

The fact that the Vatican and Italy are cooperating on security issues is not uncommon: Italian police patrol St. Peter’s Square, and there are official levels of cooperation between Vatican gendarmes and Italian law enforcement. But Tinner’s espionage activities for Pena Parra certainly went beyond official channels, intentionally. Mauriello recalled that at one point he even had to escort Tinner past the Vatican security booth because the gendarmes asked too many questions.

Pena Parra did not refer to Mauriello’s claim in his long defense of the Vatican prosecutor’s office. But he made it clear that as soon as he arrived at the Vatican in late 2018, he discovered a number of problematic actions he sought to eliminate, including outrageous costs, uncompromising staff and questionable decision-making.

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This is not the first time the Secretariat of State has outsourced intelligence: Cardinal Angelo Beccu, Pena Parr’s predecessor, is on trial in part because he hired a self-proclaimed Sardinian security analyst as a consultant to help negotiate the release of Catholic missionaries. hostages in Africa.

And Pope Francis himself has authorized the Vatican prosecutor’s office to conduct an interrogation of Italian citizens on Italian soil, which is another detail of the case that violates sovereignty.

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