ROME — The Vatican indicted 10 folks Saturday, including an Italian cardinal, for financial crimes over a botched investment in London that allegedly squandered money supposed “for the personal charity of the Holy Father.”
The announcement marked a major escalation in a long-simmering investigation into the Vatican’s investment in a luxury residential constructing in London. Among folks who will stand trial later this month is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was once the third-best-ranked resolve within the Vatican and who helped oversee a substantial asset portfolio.
A Holy Gape spokesman said a special process, inviting Pope Francis’s personal approval, was wished for the indictment of a cardinal. Becciu, who was removed from his region by the pontiff last year, faces charges including embezzlement and abuse of place of work.
The chance of a cardinal facing a Vatican trial appears unheard of within the fashionable historical past of the church, and is certain to amplify what had already been certainly one of many Holy Gape’s largest financial scandals in decades.
The investment payment the church hundreds of thousands of euros — and reportedly helped enrich the middlemen. The Associated Press, citing court paperwork, had previously reported that the project was approved by high-ranked individuals within the Secretariat of State, the place Becciu had worked as a high deputy from 2011 till 2018.
A woman who worked with Becciu was also among these charged, as effectively as a businessman who helped broker the deal and a customary head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, René Brülhart.
The charges facing the individuals range from fraud to money laundering to extortion. The trial will start up July 27, the Vatican said.
A prolonged account on the official Vatican News residing, summarizing documentation from the prosecution, portrays Becciu as interfering in attempts to salvage the property deal even after he had moved on to a new region within the Vatican, as head of the department in charge of sainthood.
Becciu, the account said, also played a role in making certain that $200 million in papal charitable funds had been invested instead in “reckless, speculative activity.”
Becciu issued a statement via his lawyer denying any wrongdoing and ascribing the charges to “vague plots” against him.
Brülhart, in a statement sent to The Washington Publish, said: “I have always carried out my functions and obligations with correctness, loyalty and within the queer hobby of the Holy Gape and its organs.” He called the Vatican’s latest steps a “procedural blunder.”
Francis has prioritized cleaning up the Vatican’s notoriously opaque finances — a goal that past pontiffs had also talked about and struggled to tackle. Nonetheless the London financial scandal has added to the stress, highlighting what can happen in a secretive city-state when priests with exiguous to no investment training handle mountainous assets.
Among the steps already taken, Francis last year formally stripped the Secretariat of State of its financial holdings and ordered the department to transfer its holdings to another place of work. The Vatican has also fired several staff in reference to the London case. In October 2019, Vatican police raided town-state’s Financial Information Authority and the Secretariat of State.
Last September, when Becciu renounced the rights of cardinal — certainly one of many few instances that has happened over a century — neither the Vatican nor Francis explicitly tied the experience to the investment deal. A day after his firing, Becciu called a information conference and said he had been accused by the pope of embezzlement in a face-to-face conversation. Nonetheless Becciu described the accusations as pertaining to a separate case inviting donations to Becciu’s dwelling diocese on the Italian island of Sardinia.
On Saturday, he said in a statement that he was the “sufferer of a machination against me.”
“Finally the moment of clarity is coming,” Becciu said, “and the tribunal will probably be able to assess the absolute falsehood of the allegations against me and the vague plots that have clearly been supporting and feeding them.”
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this file.