Cardinal and 9 others tried in Vatican in money scandals


A trial opened Tuesday in Vatican City for 10 defendants, including a once powerful cardinal, in a case based on a sprawling investigation into the allegedly criminal management of the Holy See’s portfolio of assets, including donations to ‘innumerable Catholics.

Among the accused is Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a longtime Vatican diplomat. After a web of scandals began to unravel during a two-year investigation, Pope Francis sacked Becciu last year as head of the church’s office of saints. Not awaiting the verdict of a Vatican court, Francis also withdraws his rights as cardinal.

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Less than three months ago, it would have been impossible for a cardinal to be on the dock in Vatican City State, which has its own justice and even a prison. But Francis had a Vatican law changed so that Vatican-based cardinals and bishops could be prosecuted and tried by the Holy See’s secular criminal court as long as the pontiff approves. Previously, Vatican cardinals could only be tried by their peers, a tribunal of three fellow cardinals.

Becciu, 73, is accused of embezzlement and pressuring a Monsignor to retract information he gave to prosecutors about the handling of the Vatican’s disastrous real estate investment in London. Becciu, who was elevated to cardinal status by Francis in 2018, has denied any wrongdoing.

Since an indictment of nearly 500 pages was issued in early July, prosecutors have filed around 30,000 pages of additional documents. Defense lawyers say they don’t have enough time to study the material.

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The presiding judge, Giuseppe Pignatone, is a retired chief prosecutor from Rome who earlier in his career tackled the Mafia and economic mischief in Sicily.

To accommodate the largest criminal trial in modern Vatican history, hearings take place in a large hall transformed into a courtroom in the Vatican Museums.

A group of Vatican-accredited journalists are allowed to follow court proceedings, but their accounts are not allowed to be filed until the end of today’s hearing.

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The defendants are said to have played various roles in actions that effectively cost the Holy See tens of millions of dollars in donated funds through bad investments, relationships with shady fund managers, and alleged favors to friends and family. family.

The London agreement approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State looms large in the indictment. A first 200 million euros (now almost 240 million dollars) was swallowed up in a fund managed by an Italian businessman. Half of that money went into the real estate business in upscale Chelsea, an investment that ultimately cost € 350million. In 2018, the initial investment was losing money and the Vatican rushed to find an exit strategy.

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The defendants include Cecilia Marogna, who was hired by Becciu as an external security consultant. Prosecutors allege that she embezzled € 575,000 of Vatican funds that Becciu had authorized to use as ransom to free Catholic hostages abroad. Marogna argued that the charges she brought were reimbursement for her intelligence-related expenses and that other sums were her compensation.

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