BY STAFF REPORTER
MORE crimes are committed per head of population in Vatican City than in any other state in the world, according to new statistics.
Nicola Picardi, the Vatican's attorney general, reported that in 2006, the country's justice department had to deal with 341 civil and 486 criminal cases. With a population of 492, that amounts to 1.5 cases per person 20 times the conesponding rate in Italy despite the fact that Vatican City has one member of the Swiss Guards for every four citizens.
Mr Picardi said most criminal cases were matters of pursesnatching or pick-pocketing. The rest were petty crimes such as fraud and forgery, committed by a handful of the 18 million pilgrims and tourists who visit St Peter's Cathedral, St Peter's Square and the Vatican Museurns every year.
According to the Vatican. about 90 per cent of these crimes go unpunished because it is easy for the perpetrators to slip across the border into Italy, which is just a few yards away.
Mr Picardi's crime report has become an annual event since the Vatican published its first crime statistics in 2003.
Although most offences are minor, there was a murder of a Swiss Guard in Vatican City in 1998, as well as the attempt on the life of John Paul II in 1981.