A Vatican judge has indicted 10 people, including a once powerful cardinal, on charges such as embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud in connection with a € 350 million ($ 415 million) investment in a business of London.
The president of the Vatican’s criminal court, Giuseppe Pignatone, has set July 27 as the trial date, according to a Vatican press release released Saturday.
The allegations were handed down after a two-year investigation into how the Secretariat of State managed its vast portfolio of assets, much of which is funded by donations from Peter’s faithful. Pence.
The scandal led to a sharp reduction in donations and encouraged Pope Francis to strip the office of its ability to manage money.
Five former Vatican officials, including Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu and two Secretariat of State officials, have been indicted, as well as Italian businessmen who handled the London investment.
An accused of embezzlement was also accused by an Italian intelligence expert of having bought luxury goods with money from the Holy See intended to help Catholics be held hostage.
Vatican prosecutors accuse the main suspects of bilking millions of euros from the Holy See in taxes and other losses related to financial investments that were largely financed by donations to the pope for charity work. The suspects denied the allegations.
One of the main suspects in the deal, Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi, is accused of robbing the Vatican of 15 million euros (17.8 million dollars) to cede ownership of the London palace in the end of 2018.
Torzi had been detained by the Vatican to help him acquire full ownership of the building from another money manager accused of having managed the initial investment in 2013 but lost money for what the Vatican said were speculative investments, reckless.
Vatican prosecutors say Torzi has inserted a last-minute clause in the contract that gives him the full voting right in the deal.
The Vatican hierarchy, however, has signed the contract, with the pope’s No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and his deputy approving. Neither was charged. Moreover, Francis himself was aware of Torzi’s agreement and participation in it.
Vatican prosecutors have produced evidence suggesting the Vatican hierarchs were tricked by Torzi and helped in part by an Italian lawyer – who was also charged Saturday – in accepting the deal.
Torzi denied the allegations and said the allegations were the result of a misunderstanding.
He is currently in London awaiting an extradition request from Italian authorities, who are seeking to prosecute him on related charges.
A papal and official Holy See accused, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, was also charged, who helped spark London’s initial investment when he was chief of staff to the Secretariat of State.
Francis fired him as head of Vatican sanctions last year, apparently in connection with a separate issue: his donation of 100,000 euros ($ 180,000) of Holy See funds to a diocesan charity run by his brother Becciu.
Vatican News, the internal media portal, said Beccio was not originally part of the London inquiry but was included in May 2020 after it appeared he was behind the proposal. acquire the building.
Prosecutors also accused him of interfering in the investigation by causing one of the witnesses to change history.
In a statement released Saturday by his lawyers, Becciu insisted on the “absolute falsity” of the accusations against him and denounced what he said to be “unparalleled media pillory” against him in the Italian press.
“I am the victim of a blatant plot against me and I have been waiting for a long time to know any charges against me, to allow me to deny them immediately and to prove to the world my absolute innocence,” .
“Only by considering this great injustice as a test of faith can I find the strength to fight for this battle of truth.”
Becciu denied the wrongdoing in the London investment; he admitted he made the donation but insisted the money was for charity, not for his brother.
One of Becciu’s defendants, Cecilia Marogna, has been charged with embezzlement.
Becciu had hired Marogna as an external consultant after contacting in 2015 with security concerns at Vatican embassies in the world’s hotspots.
Becciu has authorized hundreds of thousands of euros of funds from the Holy See to free Catholic hostages, according to WhatsApp messages reprinted by Italian media.
His Slovenian holding company, which received the funds, was one of four companies that also ordered to be tried.
Marogna said the money connected to her was compensation for legitimate security and intelligence work and reimbursement for her expenses.
Vatican News, citing the accusation, says it spent the money on purchases that were incompatible with its company’s humanitarian purpose.
The two former senior officials of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency have also been charged with alleged abuses of office.
The watchdog agency had actually launched an international inquiry into the London agreement months before Vatican prosecutors had it.
But prosecutors say they failed to stop Torzi’s agreement by playing a “decisive role” in letting him play, Vatican News reported.