Vatican auditor sues for $9.5 million for wrongful termination

The Vatican’s first auditor general and his deputy have sued the Holy See for $9.5 million for wrongful termination, as a new chapter of litigation begins in Pope Francis’ troubled financial reform efforts.

In a lawsuit made public Thursday, Libero Milone and his deputy, Ferruccio Panicco, claimed that Vatican criminals effectively blackmailed them by forcing them to resign in 2017 or risk arrest and prosecution for their work on to investigate and review the murky finances of the Holy See.

In the lawsuit filed before the Vatican court, the auditors said they had uncovered astonishing financial misconduct in a “viper’s nest” at the Vatican and believe they were forced out because certain cardinals and monsignors “felt threatened by the investigations and simple requests for explanations.”

A Vatican spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

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The Milone scandal is just one of many that have marked Francis’ 10-year effort to impose international budgeting and auditing standards on the Vatican’s opaque finances. The lawsuit, and a number of previously confidential attachments, now threaten to expose more potential wrongdoing and even difficult decisions by Francis himself.

Criminal proceedings have already been going on for over a year in the Vatican courtroom due to the 350 million euro investment of the Holy See in real estate in London; Prosecutors have charged 10 people with a number of alleged financial crimes, including embezzlement and fraud. The defendants have denied the allegations, saying the Holy See was simply in over their head.

The lawsuit, which involves many of the same figures as those in the criminal case, suggests that the pope’s brazen reforms and loyalty sparked a spasm of retaliation and retaliation now being fought out in court, implicating Francis and his top aides.

Francis appointed Milone, who had led Deloitte’s Italian operations, in 2015 to serve as the Pope’s first auditor general. The Vatican press office announced his resignation two years into his five-year term, accusing him of illegally hiring outside firms to spy on the private lives of Vatican employees.

Photo: Viewed Nov.  20, 2020, showing the skyline of Rome and the Vatican St.  Peter's Church.

Photo: Viewed Nov. 20, 2020, showing the skyline of Rome and the Vatican St. Peter’s Church.
(Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images)

Milone argued in the lawsuit that the intelligence-gathering work constituted legitimate consulting that was punishable by law under his office. He said at the time that he had been forced to resign under threats of arrest for what he said was a bogus prosecution orchestrated by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a once powerful cardinal and Francis confidant.

The lawsuit, which names the Vatican’s secretary of state and the new auditor general as defendants, details Milone’s grievances and outlines some of the dirt he and Panicco uncovered during their first two years in office, as well as the resistance they faced trying to get Becciu and other hierarchy of the Vatican to submit its finances for audit.

They seek to recover lost wages as well as damages for reputational damage.

Panicco’s claim is also personal: He is asking for €3.5 million because he tried for years, without success, to get the Vatican to return personal medical records seized when Vatican police raided the audit offices in 2017 in his eve. expulsion. Those records included months of diagnostic tests for a possible cancer diagnosis that Panicco had to repeat and delayed his treatment for months, to the detriment of his health, the lawsuit says.

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Milone specifically accuses Becciu, a former top Foreign Office official now on trial in the London real estate case, of being behind his dismissal as the official who most resisted his efforts to impose an external audit of the €600-million Foreign Office office. portfolio.

In a statement on Thursday, Becciu’s lawyers recalled that the cardinal had already told the court that it was Francis himself who wanted Milone to resign because the pope had lost confidence in him because of the “illegal surveillance” he carried out.

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