Pope Francis’ Key Official Testifies in Trial, Admits to Filing False Invoice

The chief of staff for Pope Francis testified in a foreign court recently, becoming one of the highest-ranking officials of the Holy See to do so.

Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra was called to testify in what’s being called the “trial of the century” — a civil proceeding brought against the Vatican in British civil court by a financier who’s British and Italian who was involved with a London investment property with the Holy See.

During the testimony, Pena Parra admitted that he filed a false invoice in the situation, though he pointed the fingers at one of his former deputies who someone escaped from the scandal completely unscathed.

Last year, a criminal tribunal in the Vatican convicted Raffaele Mincione for his role in the 350 euro investment the Vatican made in a warehouse of the former Harrod’s. He’s asking the British High Court to clear his name by declaring that he acted “in good faith.”

The case that’s proceeding in London is believed to be the first time that a foreign court has put the Holy See on trial. It’s part of collateral damage incurred by the Vatican after it decided to prosecute 10 people for multiple financial crimes revolved around its London investment, which lost money for the Vatican.

Prosecutors with the Vatican accused multiple people, including Mincione, of fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros for commissions and fees as part of the investment. 

Gianluigi Torzi, another broker from London, has been accused of extorting the Vatican for 15 euros so they would cede control of that building. The Vatican court convicted both men and seven other people — including one cardinal. All are appealing those rulings.

Pena Parra submitted a written opening statement in the London case, giving a detailed listing of what happened throughout many meetings, negotiations and messages on WhatsApp in the latter stages of 2018. At that time, the London property was changing hands to a holding company that Torzi controlled from a fund that Mincione controlled.

Prosecutors with the Vatican claimed that Torzi ultimately fleeced the Vatican, assuming all of the voting shares in that holding company so that he’d have them all.

In the Vatican trial, all of the defendants argued that the Holy See was well aware of all of the risks that it took on with the investment, and also understood what the transaction terms were. They even said top officials at the Vatican, including Pope Francis, approved all of the transactions.

In his written statement, Pena Parra didn’t mention Mincione much. He instead focused on the deputy who was overseeing the whole investment at the time.

When the investment was proposed and then approved in 2013, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca headed up the administrative office. He signed the contracts that gave Torzi control of that property five years after the contract was originally signed in 2013.

Perlasca hasn’t been prosecuted for his role, though many of his bosses and underlings were.