The Vatican's first auditor general and his deputy, who were appointed in 2015 and fired two years later, are suing the Holy See for 9.3 million euros ($9.25 million) in damages, alleging they were sacked after discovering financial irregularities.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Thursday he had no comment on the lawsuit, which was filed last week with the Vatican prosecutor's office by lawyers for Libero Milone and Ferruccio Panicco.
Milone, 74, a former chairman and CEO of Deloitte in Italy, was appointed by Pope Francis in 2015 as part of an effort to clean up Vatican finances and raise accounting procedures to international standards of accountability and transparency.
He was told to resign in 2017 by Cardinal Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who was then the number two in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, its most important department.
Becciu told Reuters in 2017 that Milone "went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me".
Milone denies this, saying he just was seeking information he had a right to see as auditor general.
"We did the right thing, we never spied, we have been honest, we did what we had to do, but unfortunately what we had to do was very embarrassing," Milone said at briefing at his lawyers' offices in Rome.
Pope Francis fired Becciu in 2020. Becciu is currently one of 10 defendants at a trial in the Vatican on charges including corruption and embezzlement related to the purchase of a building in London. All of them deny any wrongdoing.
The Vatican's prosecutor's office said it had recently re-opened an investigation about events at the time of the sacking in 2017. Milone said he was summoned to appear next week.
Becciu told Reuters he had nothing new to say about the Milone case, directing a reporter to his testimony at the court where he is now on trial which says that it was the pope who ordered Milone's ousting and that he merely carried it out.
Becciu's lawyers said Milone had given a "a completely unfounded reconstruction" of events in the legal filing.
Milone that at the start of his mandate he had good relations with the pope, telling him "everything I found" and meeting him regularly.
But that changed in 2016 at about the same time he requested more information from Becciu on the London building and he suspected that the pope did not receive his letters after that.
The 53-page legal filing, which was seen by Reuters, alleges "a filter" was put up which made it difficult for Milone to reach Pope Francis, who was the target of a "disinformation operation" by some in the Vatican.
Milone said at the briefing that he had been looking into suspicious transfers between bank accounts of senior Vatican officials, others involving hospitals associated with the Vatican and the discovery that an email account in the pope's private office may have been compromised by spyware.
In the filing, Milone's lawyers say that in 2016 Becciu and his assistants showed Milone a document about the Secretariat of State's real estate holdings, including the London building.
Milone then asked for full documentation about the real estate dealings "in order to carry out normal auditing activities," but he never received it, the filing says.
"And now I am being put on a cross because I did the right thing? Because I did what I should have done?," Milone said, adding that his career and reputation had been destroyed.