The trial in the ‘Rotten’ Vatican Financial Scandal has begun.
After a two-year investigation, a financial scandal involving an opaque, loss-making Vatican property purchase paid for with charity cash will go to trial on Tuesday, including a once-powerful cardinal.
Prosecutors accuse eleven individuals, including high-rolling London financiers and church personnel, of embezzlement, fraud, and corruption, among other offenses.
On the first day of the trial, it is uncertain whether former cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was then the number two at the powerful Secretariat of State, will appear in the makeshift tribunal set up within the Vatican Museums.
Becciu, 73, claims to be an innocent victim of a plan and is the most high-profile defendant involved in the Church’s disastrous purchase of a 17,000-square-meter London house in the upscale Chelsea neighborhood while he was in charge.
Becciu faces charges of embezzlement, misuse of authority, and witness tampering, as well as allegations that he diverted hundreds of thousands of euros from the church to his brother’s charity.
The trial of Pope Francis’ former right-hand man, who was sacked by the pontiff in September and stripped of his powers as a cardinal, is the first time in modern history that a cardinal has been indicted by Vatican criminal prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege a complex case involving dubious, risky investments involving millions of dollars in Vatican funds, little or no oversight, and double-dealing by outside consultants and insiders trusted with the financial interests of the Vatican’s most important department, the Secretariat of State, which is responsible for general affairs and diplomacy.
A 487-page indictment unsealed earlier this month details large bank payments, text communications between accomplices sent from seized devices, and even bags of cash changing hands and covert meetings in high-end hotels.
Prosecutors said that the main defendants are “actors in a filthy predatory and lucrative system, sometimes made feasible thanks to limited but incisive participation and internal connivance.”
Since his election as Pope in 2013, Francis has committed to clean up the Church’s finances, which have been plagued by controversy for decades. Following a Vatican police raid on the Secretariat’s offices in 2019, Francis removed the body of its financial oversight, delegating it to others.
The controversy is especially embarrassing because cash used for hazardous initiatives, such as the failed 350-million-euro ($415-million) investment in Chelsea, came from the Peter’s Pence, the pope’s yearly charity fund.
The current issue dates back to 2013, when the Secretariat borrowed over $200 million from Credit Suisse to invest in a Luxembourg fund. Brief News from Washington Newsday.