Vatican police raided the offices of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and its Financial Information Authority (AIF) on Tuesday and took away documents and electronic devices, a statement said.
The raid, described as “highly unusual”, came one day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Rome and met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Five Vatican employees, including the number two at the Vatican’s AIF and a monsignor, have been suspended following the police raid, the Italian magazine L’Espresso reported on Wednesday.
The operation is highly unusual because the Secretariat of State is the nerve center of the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomacy, and the AIF is the financial controller of all Vatican departments.
Bankers’ best guesses about the Vatican’s wealth put it at $10 billion to $15 billion. Of this wealth, Italian stockholdings alone run to $1.6 billion, 15% of the value of listed shares on the Italian market. The Vatican has big investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, real estate.
The Vatican statement gave no details except to say that the operation was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General and related to “financial operations carried out over the course of time.”
A senior Vatican source said he believed the operation, which the statement said had been authorized by Vatican prosecutors, had to do with real estate transactions.
The statement said superiors of the departments had been informed of the operation.
Reuters report: On its website, L’Espresso published a picture of a police notice to guards at Vatican gates telling them not to allow in the five employees because they had been suspended. The notice included photographs of the five, one of whom is a woman.
The people whose pictures were on the notice included Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the AIF, and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, the head of documentation at the Secretariat of State. The other three held minor roles in the Secretariat of State, the key department in the Vatican’s central administration.
Calls to Di Ruzza’s cell phone went unanswered. Reuters was not immediately able to contact the other officials.
A senior Vatican source said he was aware of the suspension of four employees from the Secretariat of State but not of Di Ruzza’s suspension.
Vatican police raided both offices on Tuesday and seized documents and electronic devices as part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities.
Tuesday’s raid is believed to be the first time the two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.