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HomenewsCardinal and nine others await verdicts in historic Vatican fraud trial

Cardinal and nine others await verdicts in historic Vatican fraud trial

A two and a half year corruption trial that exposed infighting and intrigue in the highest echelons of the Vatican is set to close when a court is due to hand down verdicts for a once-powerful cardinal and nine other people.

Judge Giuseppe Pignatone will on Saturday read out the verdicts of the three-judge panel in the converted courtroom in the Vatican Museums.

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Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, a former adviser to Pope Francis and once considered a papal contender himself, is the first-ever cardinal to be prosecuted in the Vatican’s criminal court and the most senior clergyman in the Catholic Church to face justice in the tiny city-state.

He is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and trying to induce a witness to give false testimony.

Becciu has denied all wrongdoing, as have the other nine defendants – including financiers, lawyers and ex-Vatican employees – also charged with financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering and extortion.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi has requested seven years and three months in jail for Becciu, and between almost four and 13 years for the others.

London building sold for $153m loss

The trial, which began in July 2021, played out in 85 hearings. It revolved mostly around a messy purchase of a building in London by the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s key administrative and diplomatic department.

Becciu held the number two position there in 2014 when it began investing in a fund managed by Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, securing about 45 percent of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue.

In 2018, by which time Becciu had moved to another Vatican job, the Secretariat of State felt it was being deceived by Mincione and turned to another financier, Gianluigi Torzi, for help in squeezing Mincione out and buying the rest of the building.

Torzi also fleeced the Vatican, according to prosecutors who have charged both men with fraud, corruption and embezzlement.

Under a cloud of embarrassment, the Vatican sold the building last year, taking an estimated loss of about 140 million euros ($153m).

Other charges

The trial has shone a light on the Holy See’s murky finances, which Pope Francis has sought to clean up since taking the helm of the Catholic Church in March 2013. It is also a test of his reforms of Vatican justice.

Just weeks before the trial, Francis gave the Vatican’s civilian courts the power to try cardinals and bishops. Previously, they were judged by a court presided over by cardinals.

Becciu, who was fired by Pope Francis from his second job in 2020 for alleged nepotism but who remains a cardinal, has also been accused on charges related to the investigation.

These include funnelling money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia; and making payments to Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian woman also on trial, for what Becciu claimed was a project to help secure the release of a nun kidnapped in Mali.

Among the other defendants on trial are Enrico Crasso, a former Vatican investment manager, Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former Vatican employee, and Father Mauro Carlino, the cardinal’s former secretary.

Source: News Agencies

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