Investigation Exposes Weaknesses in Vatican City’s Judicial System

Investigation Exposes Weaknesses in Vatican City’s Judicial System

Investigation Exposes Weaknesses in Vatican City’s Judicial System


A recent criminal investigation into a Vatican City real estate investment has revealed weaknesses in the Holy See’s judicial system, including a lack of protections for those accused. The result, it seems, is that the judicial system and procedures are incompatible with European norms.


Understanding Vatican City


Never a democracy, the Vatican instead has been a moral authority on a global scale and at the same time a monarch. The pope has the ultimate power — being the supreme legislator, executive, and judge — who can make laws and regulations (and waive them) as well as hire and fire officials, prosecutors, and judges. Marc Odendall, a former long-time papal advisor recently gave up his consulting roles in protest of the grave issues he saw coming out of the real estate probe because something had to be done.


The Investigation


The probe was into a 350 million-euro London real estate investment. The investigation came to light in October, 2019 when the pope’s security officials raided the offices of the central government of the Holy See — the Vatican secretariat of state. These body guards also raided the AIF, the Vatican’s financial watchdog authority. Notably, Pope Francis had personally authorized the raids in response to information that a trusted ally had alerted the Vatican’s prosecutors of questionable circumstances surrounding the investment. The Pope defended the raids on the AIF despite steep criticism.


While the investigation portrayed Pope Francis as a leader who was cracking down on corruption, there is evidence of financial mismanagement by Vatican officials, including agreeing to pay tens of millions of euros in fees to Italian middlemen. Suspects of the investigation claim Pope Francis was aware of the payment, even that he purportedly personally approved it, and that top Vatican leaders authorized the transaction.


Vatican Law


The case itself is highlighting the limitations embedded in Vatican law, which is based on Italian code from 1889. Not only is this code no longer in use in modern-day times, but compared to modern legal systems, it also diminishes the rights of defendants during an investigative phase of a case. One example of this is Pope Francis authorizing the Holy See’s prosecutors to us a “summary rite” during the investigation. This allows them to deviate from typical procedures and grants them discretion to interrogate and perform searches and seizures without any oversight from an investigating judge.


Complexity of International Law


The real estate investment investigation at Vatican City highlights how complicated international law can become. If you are pursuing a lawsuit against an international defendant, the last thing you want to be concerned with is proper service of process. The team at Ancillary Legal can handle all of your processing needs so you can focus on the substantive aspect of your case. Contact us today.


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