Cardinal Becciu and associates to be tried for financial crimes

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cardinal becciu

Indictments  against Cardinal Becciu and others were announced on July 3 and the prosecution will begin July 27, as per the Vatican press office.

A July 3 release from the Vatican press office said the investigation had “brought to light a vast network of relationships with operators in the financial markets that have generated substantial losses for the Vatican finances, having also drawn on the resources intended for the personal charitable works of the Holy Father.”

The cardinal and nine other people will face trial on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, fraud, extortion, corruption, money laundering, and forgery of official documents. Cardinal Becciu is the most senior former Vatican official to face charges, and one of only two clerics to be summoned to trial by the Vatican City state tribunal.

The trials will go over investments and financial transactions misconduct over years at the Vatican Secretariat of State, culminating in the 2018 purchase of a London investment property. 

The complicated process of purchasing that property allegedly involved extortion, bribes, illegal borrowing and spending, money laundering, document falsification, and a host of other alleged crimes by the building’s owners, the sale’s broker, and several Vatican officials, reaching up to Becciu at the highest levels of Vatican administration. 

Becciu has already been stripped of the prerogatives of a cardinal and has been accused of funding an off-books spy network operated by a “security consultant,” who will now also face trial, and of attempting to hide investments and financial transactions from Vatican oversight.

The Vatican trial of a cardinal for crimes of financial misconduct marks a major milestone in Pope Francis’ promise to reform Vatican curial operations and mandate financial accountability. 

 The other individuals being tried include :

  • Raffaele Mincione, the London-based businessman who managed hundreds of millions of euros for the Secretariat of State and who sold the London building to the Holy See. 
  • Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the building, was shown to have a web of business ties to Mincione that represented a conflict of interest during the sale process. The Vatican also charges that midway through his role in closing the property purchase, Torzi conducted a shakedown for Vatican money amounting essentially to a high-stakes bait-and-switch. 
  • Enrico Crasso, whose company made Vatican investments in several questionable business ventures, including the Elton John biopic “Rocketman.” 
  • Cecilia Marogna, the self-styled geopolitical strategist and security consultant, who has said she operated a private intelligence gathering operation for Cardinal Becciu, which included spying against other senior curial figures.
  • Fabrizzio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State who, for years, oversaw the administration of Vatican investments.
  • Msgr. Mauro Carlino, the only cleric to be charged apart from Becciu, a former senior staffer in the Secretariat of State working in the same office as Becciu and Tirabassi.

The indictments also included charges against Rene Brülhart, the former head of the Vatican’s financial intelligence agency and a widely respected figure in European banking. He has been accused of abuse of office.

Brülhart left his post in November 2019, shortly after a controversial raid on the Financial Information Authority (AIF) by Vatican police. That raid, which was reportedly authorized by Pope Francis, led to the suspension of the AIF from the Egmont Group, the mechanism by which international financial intelligence agencies share information and work. 

The Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who has overseen the department at the heart of the financial scandal since his appointment by Pope Francis in 2014, was not named in the charge sheet. In recent months, it emerged that Parolin personally approved key parts of the London property deal through which Torzi allegedly extorted the Holy See. 

In January, it was reported that Parolin personally contacted the president of a Vatican bank to pressure him to approve a 150 million euro loan to underwrite the Vatican’s London investment.

An Italian court recently found that Parolin’s personal approval of the London deal had been secured through misleading legal advice given to him by Vatican officials and lawyers.

The Vatican has indicated for months that prosecutors planned to bring at least some of the indicted figures to trial. Vatican gendarmes have worked with Italian financial police to serve search and seizure warrants on several occasions, including against Mincione, Torzi, and Tirabassi.

Vatican requests in recent months to foreign courts for asset freezes or arrests gave some indication of the scope of their case, while Pope Francis has made several changes to courtroom procedural law to better facilitate the trial of some high-profile individuals, including Becciu, who, as a cardinal, is not ordinarily eligible for trial in the ordinary criminal court of the Vatican City State. 

At the same time, the court has also added personnel, including an expert in contract law to serve as a judgeCourt administrators also announced recently the construction of a larger courtroom to facilitate high-profile trials.

 

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