The trial over a multi-million euro scandal involving the purchase and financing of a building in London by the Vatican, a powerful cardinal and two senior officials of the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit, and other defendants , started on Tuesday. ) – but its pursuit has already been postponed.
The cardinal is the powerful Angelo Becciu, 73, who had carte blanche in all areas of the Vatican. On Tuesday, however, he passed a metal detector like everyone else as he entered the makeshift courtroom, with an occasionally dismayed look in his eyes.
He then remained silent for nearly eight hours of the hearing, until the trial was adjourned to October 5 at the request of the defense lawyers, as they had not yet analyzed all the evidence of the charges. against him on July 3.
“The Pope wanted me to stand trial. I am obedient, I am here, ”said Becciu, who wore a black cleric costume with a priest’s collar, before leaving the modern hall of the Vatican Museum. The venue was chosen for the trial because the court is too small to accommodate those involved in the process amid Covid-19 restrictions.
Although not the standard venue, the hall was adorned with a crucifix hung on the wall behind the three-judge platform. Nearby was a large photograph of Pope Francis, the sovereign monarch of Vatican City.
It was the pontiff who sacked Becciu last year on suspicion of nepotism, making the cardinal the highest Vatican official ever charged with financial crimes.
Francisco personally gave the necessary approval at the end of June for Becciu to be charged, according to a 487-page document to which the Reuters news agency had access.
The cardinal received five counts of embezzlement, two of abuse of power and one of incitement to perjury a witness. About 75 pages of the document are dedicated to him. His case also concerns contracts with companies or charities controlled by his brothers on his native island of Sardinia.
Born in Sardinia, 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, and that a large part would have been used for personal purposes, including the purchase of luxury goods. Marogna had previously said the money was intended to save kidnapped missionaries in Africa. The cardinal’s former secretary, Father Mauro Carlino, is on trial for extortion.
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.
On Tuesday, only Becciu and Carlino were present at the hearing – both pleaded not guilty. The other defendants enjoyed the right to be defended in absentia.
The day was mainly devoted to procedural matters. Ambra Giovene, Torzi’s lawyer, said her client, who lives in London, is contesting Italy’s extradition request for alleged unrelated financial crimes and had a legitimate bar not to attend the hearing .
Mincione’s lawyers, on the other hand, want assurances that if he is tried in person he will not be arrested in the Vatican, as happened with Torzi last year, who was held for ten days. .
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 director of AIF, Tommaso Di Ruzza, 46, were charged with abuse of power for allegedly failing to protect adequately the interests of the Vatican and giving stockbroker Torzi what the indictment called “abusive.” benefit. ”Di Ruzza was also charged with embezzlement in connection with the alleged misuse of his official credit card and the disclosure of confidential information.
In 2014, the Secretary of State invested more than 200 million euros, largely from contributions from faithful, in a fund managed by the broker Mincione, buying about 45% of a luxury commercial and residential building on Sloane Avenue, London. .
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.