Catholic Church: 75-Yr-Old Former Adviser to Pope Francis Bags Jail Terms for Embezzlement, Other Crimes

A Vatican court on Saturday sentenced a once powerful Italian cardinal to five years and six months in jail for financial crimes at the end of a historic trial.

Angelo Becciu, 75, a former adviser to Pope Francis who was once considered a papal contender himself, was the most senior clergyman in the Catholic Church to face a Vatican criminal court.

His lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said they respected the sentence — which included an 8,000-euro ($8,700) fine — but would appeal, continuing to insist on Becciu’s innocence.

The cardinal had been accused of embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering, one of ten defendants in a trial focused on a disastrous investment by the Vatican in a luxury building in London.

They included financiers, lawyers, and ex-Vatican employees accused of a range of financial crimes — all of whom were found guilty Saturday barring one, Becciu’s former secretary Mauro Carlino.

More than two and a half years after the trial opened, court president Giuseppe Pignatone read out sentences ranging from a fine to more than seven years in jail.

The court also ordered the confiscation of those convicted of 166 million euros and ordered them to compensate the civil parties to the tune of more than 200 million euros.

The Holy See had declared itself “an offended party” and four Vatican entities were civil parties, claiming hundreds of millions of euros, including for moral and reputational damage.
Murky Finances

The trial 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.

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

At the heart of the trial was the purchase of a building in London’s upmarket Chelsea neighbourhood, which resulted in losses that the Vatican claimed dipped into resources intended for charity.

Becciu was found guilty of embezzlement over the decision to invest $200 million in 2013-2014 into a fund run by financier Raffaele Mincione, which the judges said was hugely risky.

Some of this money went to buying part of the Sloane Avenue property — a deal in which the Vatican lost between 140 million and 190 million euros, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi had requested seven years and three months in jail for Becciu, who had always insisted he never took a cent.

Mincione was on Saturday jailed for five and a half years while another broker involved in the London deal, Gianluigi Torzi, was jailed for six.

Charitable Causes

The trial involved more than 80 hearings in the dedicated room within the Vatican Museums, where a portrait of a smiling Pope Francis hangs on the wall.

The process had been mired by procedural wrangling, with defense lawyers complaining about a lack of access to key evidence.

Becciu, a globe-trotting former Vatican diplomat, was number two in the Secretariat of State, the Vatican department that works most closely with the Pope, from 2011 to 2018.

He was moved to lead the department that deals with the creation of saints, before abruptly resigning in September 2020, after being informed of an investigation against him.

Initially, this was about a probe into 125,000 euros of Vatican money he donated to a charity in his native Sardinia, run by his brother. He was convicted of a conflict of interest this Saturday.

Becciu was later drawn into investigations into the London purchase.

Becciu was also found guilty over a 570,000-euro payment made to a Sardinian woman, Cecilia Marogna, which he claimed was to help negotiate the release of a Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali. Marogna was jailed for three years and nine months.

Among the other defendants sentenced Saturday was Enrico Crasso, a former Vatican investment manager, jailed for seven years, and former Vatican employee Fabrizio Tirabassi, jailed for seven and a half.



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