*

upload_article_image

Pope's bodyguard resigns over new financial leaks scandal

Pope Francis' chief bodyguard resigned Monday over the leak of a Vatican police flyer identifying five Holy See employees who were suspended as part of a financial investigation.

The Vatican said its police chief, Domenico Giani, bore no responsibility for the leaked flyer but resigned to avoid disrupting the investigation and "out of love for the church and faithfulness" to the pope.

The person who leaked the document to Italian newsweekly L'Espresso remains unknown.

Vatican head of security Domenico Giani, right, shares a word with Pope Francis at the end of a canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. The Vatican said Monday Oct. 14, 2019 that Francis’ chief bodyguard Giani has resigned over the leak of a Vatican police flyer identifying five Holy See employees who were suspended as part of a financial investigation, adding that Giani bore no responsibility for the leak, but that he had resigned to ensure the serenity of the investigation and “out of love for the church and faithfulness” to the pope. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

Giani, a 20-year veteran of the Vatican's security services, has stood by Francis' side and jogged alongside his popemobile during hundreds of public appearances and foreign trips. He also was the chief bodyguard for Pope Benedict XVI.

Giani signed the Oct. 2 police flyer after his agents raided two Vatican offices - the secretariat of state and the Vatican's financial intelligence unit - in the investigation of financial irregularities surrounding a money-losing London real estate deal.

The raids and related suspensions were highly unusual for the Vatican and sparked fresh speculation about the Machiavellian turf battles, power struggles and score-settling that have long marked the Holy See's inside culture.

Vatican head of security Domenico Giani, top center, speaks to a group of cardinals during a canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. The Vatican said Monday Oct. 14, 2019 that Francis’ chief bodyguard Giani has resigned over the leak of a Vatican police flyer identifying five Holy See employees who were suspended as part of a financial investigation, adding that Giani bore no responsibility for the leak, but that he had resigned to ensure the serenity of the investigation and “out of love for the church and faithfulness” to the pope. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

That the alleged leaker remains unknown has added to the mystery surrounding the case, which implicated high-ranking Vatican cardinals and recalls two previous "Vatileaks" scandals that resulted in high-profile Vatican trials.

In this instance, officials have spoken openly of an institutional crisis, particularly over the raid on the financial intelligence unit, known as the Financial Information Authority.

The office shares financial information with counterparts in dozens of countries as part of a global effort to crack down on money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist financing.

Vatican head of security Domenico Giani, top, looks at Pope Francis at the end of a canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. The Vatican said Monday Oct. 14, 2019 that Francis’ chief bodyguard Giani has resigned over the leak of a Vatican police flyer identifying five Holy See employees who were suspended as part of a financial investigation, adding that Giani bore no responsibility for the leak, but that he had resigned to ensure the serenity of the investigation and “out of love for the church and faithfulness” to the pope. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

National financial intelligence units might be unwilling to share sensitive information with the Holy See if raids were executed without sufficient cause. To date the Vatican hasn't said what, if any, evidence it has of AIF wrongdoing.

Giani's Oct. 2 flyer was sent to all Swiss Guards and members of the Vatican gendarmes police force as an internal directive barring entry to the Vatican by the five employees.

L'Espresso and its daily newspaper, La Repubblica, published the directive and it was widely redistributed online and on social media. Bearing the hallmarks of a wanted poster, it featured the names and photographs of the five, none of whom has been placed under formal investigation.

In a statement announcing Giani's departure, the Vatican said the publication of the document greatly harmed the employees' dignity, as well as the image of the Vatican gendarmes.

Giani, 57, joined the Vatican police force as the deputy police chief in 1999 after a stint in Italy's financial police and the information department of the Italian premier's office. He was named director of Vatican security services in 2006.

This story has been corrected to show the spelling of the chief's surname to Giani, not Giano.