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Cardinal Convicted of Embezzlement in Vatican Corruption Trial 

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Senior Cardinal Angelo Becciu convicted of embezzlement, sentenced to five-and-a-half years in Vatican trial. 

Image Source: NBC News
Senior Cardinal Angelo Becciu convicted of embezzlement, sentenced to five-and-a-half years in Vatican trial.
Image Source: NBC News

The Vatican has witnessed a groundbreaking corruption case resulting in the conviction of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Responsible for managing Vatican funds between 2011 and 2018, Becciu was sentenced to five years and six months in jail by the Vatican’s criminal court. This verdict emerged from an investigation into the alleged misuse of church funds in a problematic London property investment.

The Holy See’s involvement in a London office building purchase, intended for conversion into luxury apartments, led to substantial losses when planning permission was not obtained. This venture cost the Holy See more than EUR 350 million (USD 381mn), resulting in GBP 100 million (USD 126mn) in losses upon selling the property to Bain Capital for GBP 186 million (USD235mn) last year.

Throughout the trial, which commenced in July 2021 and spanned 86 hearings involving 69 witnesses, Becciu’s defense claimed his unawareness of potential issues with the investment, emphasizing that no one had communicated the risks involved. However, conflicting testimonies revealed differing perspectives. Raffaele Mincione, the London-based Italian financier associated with the property deal, argued that the Vatican was well aware of the risks, attributing the losses to the Holy See’s imprudent decisions.

The case implicated several others. Mincione, charged alongside Becciu, was also found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering. Gianluigi Torzi, involved in assisting the Vatican’s acquisition of the building, was convicted of extortion, fraud, and money laundering, sentenced to six years in jail. Additionally, Enrico Crasso, a former Credit Suisse banker advising the Holy See, faced charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and corruption, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Two members from the Holy See’s financial oversight committee were found guilty of dereliction of duty during the trial. Consequently, they received minor fines as part of their conviction. The convictions totaled seven individuals, collectively ordered to pay approximately EUR 200 million (USD 218mn) in damages to the Holy See.

Becciu faced an additional embezzlement charge for transferring EUR 125,000 (USD 136,268) to a charitable organization run by his brother, purportedly established to aid marginalized communities such as addicts, ex-convicts, and the unemployed.

Furthermore, he was found guilty of fraud involving EUR 575,000 (USD 626,807) directed to a self-proclaimed security specialist. The intention was to utilize the funds to free a kidnapped nun in Mali, but instead, the money financed holidays and luxury shopping. The security consultant, Cecilia Marogna, also convicted of fraud, received a sentence of three years and nine months in prison.

Despite Becciu’s defense planning an appeal, the Vatican’s official news outlet affirmed the trial’s fairness, stating that some accused were acquitted or cleared of specific charges based on evidence and witness testimony.

“We will keep crying out loud that the cardinal is innocent,” said Maria Concetta Marzo, a lawyer representing the cardinal.

However, following the verdict, the Holy See’s official Vatican News highlighted that the trial’s outcome, including some of the accused being acquitted or cleared of certain charges, demonstrated that the proceedings had been carried out with “full respect for the rights of the defendants.”

Andrea Tornielli, the editor of Vatican News, stated, “The magistrates . . . reasoned with complete independence on the basis of documental proof and witnesses heard, not on preconceived theories.”

The high-profile convictions coincide with Pope Francis’ campaign to enhance accountability in church finances. However, the Pope, in a recent address on his 87th birthday, refrained from commenting on Becciu’s conviction.

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