Crime in Vatican City

Crime in Vatican City

Crime in Vatican City is handled in accordance with article 22 of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, by which the Italian government, when requested by the Holy See, seeks prosecution and detention of criminal suspects, at the expense of the Vatican.[1] The Vatican has no prison system. People convicted of committing crimes in the Vatican serve terms in Italian prisons (Polizia Penitenziaria), with costs covered by the Vatican.[2]


Capital punishment

In 1969, the Vatican state abolished capital punishment, which was envisaged in the legislation it adopted in 1929 on the basis of Italian law, but which it never exercised.

Petty crimes per capita

The Vatican's small size results in a few statistical oddities. Millions visit the state each year, and the most common crime is petty theft — purse snatching, pickpocketing and shoplifting — by outsiders. Calculations based on 455 as the population in 1992 put the 397 civil offences in that year at 87.2% of the population, with the 608 penal offences running at 133.6%.[3]

Assassination attempt

However, two major criminal events took place in recent years within Vatican territory. On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II suffered an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Ağca. This episode led to a much stronger emphasis on the Swiss Guards' functional, non-ceremonial roles. This has included enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms. The small arms are the same as those used in the Swiss army.

Swiss Guard killing

On May 4, 1998, the Swiss Guard experienced one of its greatest scandals for over 100 years when the commander of the Guard, Alois Estermann was murdered in unclear circumstances in Vatican City. According to the official Vatican version, Estermann and his wife, Gladys Meza Romero, were killed by the young Swiss Guard Cédric Tornay, who later committed suicide. Estermann had been named commander of the Swiss Guard the same day. There has been speculation of a homosexual affair between Estermann and Tornay which ended in the killing.[4][page needed]

Vatican Bank scandal

The Vatican Bank was Banco Ambrosiano's main share-holder. Father Paul Marcinkus, head of the Institute for Religious Works from 1971 to 1989, was indicted in Italy in 1982 as an accessory in the $3.5 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, one of the major post-war financial scandals. Banco Ambrosiano was accused of laundering drug money for the Sicilian Mafia.

Collaboration with the Ustasha

The class action suit against the Vatican Bank and others was filed by attorneys Tom Easton and Dr. Jonathan H. Levy in San Francisco, California on November 15, 1999. According to plaintiffs, defendants "accepted, concealed, hypothecated, laundered, retained, converted and profited from assets looted by the Ustasha Regime during April 1941 through May 1945 and deposited in, or converted, concealed, hypothecated, trafficked, credited, pledged, exchanged, laundered or liquidated through, the IOR, and OFM after the demise of the NDH-Independent State of Croatia in May 1945."


  1. ^ Treaty between the Holy See and Italy.
  2. ^ "Is the Vatican a Rogue State?" Spiegel Online. 19 January 2007. Retrieved on 25 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Vatican crime rate 'soars'". BBC. January 8, 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  4. ^ John Follain, City of Secrets: The Truth behind the murders at the Vatican, Harper Collins, London, 2006

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