The Vatican announced on Saturday (3) the referral of ten people, including a cardinal, to the criminal court for financial crimes, including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of power.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 73, a former senior official in the Vatican administration, along with two senior officials from the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit will stand trial on July 27 in a multi-million euro scandal involving the purchase and the financing of a building in London by the Vatican.
Becciu, who the Pope sacked from his post last year on suspicion of nepotism, becomes the highest Vatican official to be charged with financial crimes.
The Pope personally gave the necessary approval last week for Becciu to be indicted, according to a 487-page document seen by the Reuters news agency.
The charges against Becciu include embezzlement and abuse of power. An Italian who worked for him was accused of embezzlement and the cardinal’s former secretary, Father Mauro Carlino, was accused of extortion.
Becciu said in a statement that he was innocent. Carlino’s lawyer, meanwhile, said his client was innocent, “acting on orders” and having saved the Vatican millions of euros. The lawyer also said that starting a trial so quickly did not give the defense enough time to prepare.
Two Italian brokers, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, have been charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi, for whom Italian magistrates issued an arrest warrant in April, has also been charged with extortion.
The investigation into the purchase of the building became public in October 2019, when Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State, the administrative heart of the Catholic Church, and the Financial Reporting Authority. (AIF) of the Vatican.
Then AIF President René Bruelhart, 48, from Switzerland, and former Italian AIF director Tommaso Di Ruzza, 46, were accused of abuse of power for allegedly not sufficiently protected the interests of the Vatican and giving Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi what the indictment called. “Undue advantage”.
Di Ruzza has also been charged with embezzlement in connection with the alleged misuse of his official credit card and the disclosure of confidential information.
Bruelhart pleaded not guilty in a text message and Di Ruzza did not respond to contacts.
In 2014, the State Secretariat invested more than 200 million euros, largely coming from contributions from the faithful, in a fund managed by the broker Raffaele Mincione, buying about 45% of a commercial and residential building of luxury at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington District.
As the deal became onerous for state coffers, the Secretariat disbursed tens of millions of additional euros in fee payments to intermediaries in an attempt to change the terms of the negotiation and make it more profitable. With other investments questioned, the damage to the Vatican would reach several hundred million euros, according to the Italian press.
At the time, Becciu was in his final year as Deputy Secretary of State for General Affairs, a powerful administrative body that manages hundreds of millions of euros. Becciu received five charges of embezzlement, two of abuse of office and one charge of inciting a witness to perjure himself. About 75 pages of the document are dedicated to him.
The main charges against Becciu also relate to contracts with companies or charities controlled by his brothers on his native island of Sardinia.
Sardinian-born Cecilia Marogna, 40, who worked for Becciu, has also been accused of embezzlement. The prosecution claims that she received around 575,000 euros from the Secretary of State between 2018 and 2019.
She told an Italian TV station that the money, sent to her company in Slovenia, was intended to save kidnapped missionaries in Africa, but the prosecution claims much of it was used for personal gain, including the purchase of goods from Lux.
The process of building London “is directly linked to the directives and reforms of His Holiness Pope Francis in favor of transparency and consolidation of the Vatican’s finances,” the Holy See said on Saturday.