Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Named to Vatican Court After Raid

Published: 04 October 2019

Overlooking the Vatican City 5940864021

Vatican City (Photo: Alex Proimos, CC BY 2.0)

By Nicholas Wells

The Vatican has appointed one of Italy’s top anti-mafia prosecutors to head its criminal tribunal, just days after raids were carried out in the Holy See over alleged financial wrongdoing.

Giuseppe Pignatone, who worked with Palermo’s justice department for over 30 years before moving to Rome to head its prosecutorial service, was announced as the new head of the tribunal on Thursday.

His appointment comes two days after raids were carried out at the Vatican, prompted by concerns raised by the Vatican Bank and the auditor general’s office. The bank has developed a questionable reputation over time over its alleged links to organized crime. 

Documents and computers were seized from the Secretariat of State and the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency was also searched.

“The linked to the complaints presented at the beginning of last summer by the Institute for Works of Religion and the Office of the General Auditor, regarding financial transactions carried out over time,” the Holy See said in a statement.

Italian news magazine L’Espresso claims the allegations surround a series of financial and real estate dealings in London. It reported that five Vatican employees were suspended for their role in the transactions.

A Vatican source told the Associated Press the allegations involved a botched, money-losing real estate venture in London which occurred during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

The coverage of the raid has prompted fierce criticism from the Vatican’s state-owned newspaper.

L’Osservatore Romano criticized L’Espresso’s reporting of the suspensions in an editorial, saying the raids actually show the financial reforms launched by Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are working.

“It shows that the system has developed antibodies to react and that the path of economic-financial reforms is well underway,” the editorial reads.

The paper also called for the media to respect the privacy of employees, whether they’re “priests or fathers and mothers of families.”

Pignatone retired in May after heading Rome’s prosecutorial service.

His work over the last 30 years has led to the arrests of hundreds of members of the Cosa Nostra and ‘ndrangheta in Sicily, Calabria and Rome.

He also pursued charges cases involving corruption at Italy’s state-owned company ANAS which handled the care and repair of the country’s roads and highways, and helmed the investigation into the death of an Italian student in Egypt.

In his new position, Pignatone will judge cases that occur on Vatican territory or involve its diplomats brought before the court.