Vatican's trial of the century heads to British court: Archbishop will be cross-examined over £350m London property fraud case that saw Pope Francis authorise wire-tapping

A senior Archbishop is going to make an unprecedented appearance in a British court to be cross-examined over a £350m London property fraud case that saw Pope Francis authorise wire-tapping.

In previous British legal proceedings the Vatican has claimed diplomatic immunity and refused to allow officials to appear as witnesses.

But now Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, a close aide to the Pope, will make an appearance in the Vatican's 'trial of the century'.

At the heart of the trial is the 350-million-euro purchase of a luxury property in London which used to be a car showroom and garage for Harrod's.

Raffaele Mincione, a London financier, sold the property at 60 Sloane Avenue, in Chelsea, to the Holy See in dealings that began in 2014 and ended up costing the Vatican about 140 million euros (£118 million).

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra (right), a close aide to the Pope (left), will make an appearance in the Vatican's 'trial of the century'

Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra (right), a close aide to the Pope (left), will make an appearance in the Vatican's 'trial of the century'

Raffaele Mincione (pictured), a London financier, sold the property to the Holy See in dealings that began in 2014

Raffaele Mincione (pictured), a London financier, sold the property to the Holy See in dealings that began in 2014

The Times reported that in a case to open in the High Court next week, Mincione is seeking a declaration that he acted properly and in good faith.

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Mincione, 58, was one of a string of defendants on trial in December last year accused of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, extortion, corruption and abuse of office.

He was found guilty of embezzlement in the historic trial and sentenced to five years and six months in prison.

At present Mincione is free pending an appeal and claims the investigation and trial were illegal under international law and breached his human rights.

During the investigation the Pope used his powers as absolute monarch to pass decrees to authorise phone tapping, email interception and arrest.

Mincione's phones and computers were seized in Rome and he and his lawyers were followed.

Archbishop Parra liaised with the Pope over the case and his WhatsApp messages were disclosed to Mincione's lawyers despite the Vatican trying and failing to stop this.

At the heart of the trial is the 350-million-euro purchase of a luxury property in London (pictured)

At the heart of the trial is the 350-million-euro purchase of a luxury property in London (pictured)

It ended up costing the Vatican about 140 million euros (£118 million)

It ended up costing the Vatican about 140 million euros (£118 million)

Mincione denies the allegations of embezzlement and stands by the property valuation which he says was provided by independent experts.

He also says the Vatican has provided no evidence of his alleged wrongdoings or of its monetary loss.

He wanted to bring civil action in the UK in order to counter publicity and protect his reputation.

Vatican lawyers argued that any UK hearing could interfere with criminal proceedings and 'legitimate acts of a foreign state'.

But Mincione won a significant victory in the Court of Appeal, which has agreed that English courts have the right to examine a property transaction and rule whether he and his company, WRM, acted in good faith.

The Court of Appeal found that any English civil case would not interfere with the criminal proceedings in Vatican City.

Mincione set to argue in the High Court that he was unfairly tried by the Vatican court in contravention of international law and in breach of his human rights.

One of the things which will be crucial for Mincione's argument is that towards the end of the case the criminal charges against him had been 'requalified' and he was convicted under canon, or religiou,s law.

He was accused of breaking Canon 1284 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that 'all administrators are bound to fulfil their function with the diligence of a good householder'.

During the investigation the Pope used his powers as absolute monarch to pass decrees to authorise phone tapping, email interception and arrest

During the investigation the Pope used his powers as absolute monarch to pass decrees to authorise phone tapping, email interception and arrest

In a case to open in the High Court (pictured) next week, Mincione is seeking a declaration that he acted properly and in good faith

In a case to open in the High Court (pictured) next week, Mincione is seeking a declaration that he acted properly and in good faith

He argues this doesn't apply to him as he doesn't have a position in the Roman Catholic Church.

Leading international law barrister Rodney Dixon said: 'Mr Mincione is not an office-holder in the Roman Catholic Church. Unsurprisingly in that context, Mr Mincione was not aware of Canon 1284 before the date of his conviction by the Vatican Tribunal.'

The financier also lodged a complaint with the United Nations claiming that his rights were abused by the Pope and the Vatican due to how the trial was handled.

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