July 26, 2021

Vatican announces unprecedented trial in Roman curia

This is the culmination of an investigation with twists and turns that lasted two years, around a financial scandal involving Roman leaders of the Catholic Church. The Vatican announced, on Saturday July 3, the opening, on July 27, of an unprecedented trial against ten people, including an influential cardinal of the Roman curia. They will be tried by a court of the Holy See for acts of embezzlement, abuse of power, extortion, corruption, witness tampering, money laundering and fraud.

In addition to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, accused of embezzlement, abuse of power and bribery of witnesses, will appear two former leaders of the financial authority of the city-state, three businessmen and financial intermediaries, two officials of the secretary of state, a lawyer and a consultant close to Cardinal Becciu. The Holy See has taken civil action in this case which allegedly cost it millions of euros but which was closely followed by senior officials.

A building in London

The story spans almost a decade. It begins even before the start of Francis’ pontificate, in 2012, when the Secretariat of State plans to invest a large sum (in total, some 350 million euros will be involved in the transaction) in the purchase of a building in London, intended to be transformed into luxury apartments. Over the years and the intervention of intermediaries, this investment ended up being a financial pit for the Holy See, which also had to put its hand in its pocket to extricate itself. The indictment details nearly 500 pages of facts mixing corruption, embezzlement, fraud and poor management.

Read also The Vatican stops one of its intermediaries who made it possible to acquire a building in London in an opaque manner

The investigation has kept the Vatican in suspense. It was marked by cross accusations between the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR, the Vatican bank) and the Independent Financial Authority (AIF, in charge of financial supervision), spectacular searches at the Secretary of State and the AIF. Even before its conclusion, it has already had institutional repercussions.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was a substitute for the secretary of state (i.e. number 2 in the most powerful department of the Catholic Church government) at the time of the events, was sanctioned by the pope. In September 2020, Francis removed him from his position as prefect of the Congregation for the cause of saints and deprived him of the rights related to his title of cardinal, for reasons that have not been made explicit. On Sunday, Cardinal Becciu told himself “Victim of a plot” and proclaimed his “Absolute innocence” in the London investment case.

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