The Vatican agrees to sell Sloane Avenue property at the centre of investigation

The Vatican has agreed a contract to sell the London property at the centre of a financial corruption trial.

A spokesman for the Holy See has said the Vatican would sell 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea at a price “above” initial valuations, having received a 10 per cent deposit, with the deal expected to be completed by June.

However, media estimates say the likely loss to the Vatican could be around €100 million.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former aide to Pope Francis and administrator of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, invested €350 million between 2014 and 2018 in the former Harrods showroom, now home to luxury shops, restaurants and offices.

He is now on trial, charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and channelling money to businesses run by his brothers in their native Sardinia.  Specifically he is accused of using money from ‘Peter’s Pence’, which consists of donations made directly to the Holy See, to buy a 45 per cent share in the Sloane Avenue property.

However, the Cardinal’s lawyer is calling for the trial to be thrown out and has complained that out of 255 computer files seized by prosecutors, only 16 have been released for examination by defence lawyers adding that, of those 16, none would qualify as “forensic copies.”

The lawyer has since argued that the defence’s lack of access to the evidence should render the proceedings “radically and absolutely” null.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “this case demonstrates the importance of ensuring that data seized by prosecuting authorities can be shown to be uncontaminated by any potential breaches in the chain of custody.  In the case of computer files, it is vital that IT forensic experts are instructed to take “mirror image” copies of hard drives in a manner that avoids any potential corruption of the evidence.

“Sometimes technical breaches in procedure can result in the collapse of a prosecution, which can be embarrassing for the prosecuting authority and result in substantial wasted costs.”

Posted in Blog, The Forensic Blog.