VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Vatican judge has ordered a high-ranking Italian cardinal and nine others to stand trial for financial crimes of embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.
The 500-page indictment relates to the Vatican's purchase of a 200-million-pound ($277 million) property in London's upmarket Sloane Avenue, which resulted in a loss of 18 million euros in fraud for the Vatican, according to investigators.
The trial, which begins July 27, has the disgraced cardinal Angelo Becciu in its crosshairs. The 73-year-old former sostituto (second-in-command) at the Vatican Secretariat of State (who served from 2012–2018) directed the purchase of a former Harrods warehouse.
Becciu is charged with five counts of embezzlement, two counts of abuse of office and one count of inducing a witness to perjury, with the indictment dedicating 75 pages to his involvement.
Pope Francis, who personally approved Becciu's indictment last week, fired the scandal-plagued cardinal in September 2020, but, in April, celebrated Holy Mass on Maundy Thursday at Becciu's private apartments.
Becciu has asserted his innocence and denies using money from Peter's Pence — the pope's charitable fund for the poor — to fund the purchase of the luxury property in London.
An investigation by Italian news magazine L'Espresso also uncovered financial irregularities in cash flows from Becciu to his three brothers — Tonino, Francesco and Mario. Becciu maintains his family's innocence and has claimed, "My family did not get rich from this."
Vatican News said the indictments were based on a thorough investigation conducted by promoter of justice Gian Piero Milano, adjunct Alessandro Diddi and Gianluca Perrone following an inquiry undertaken by the Vatican Gendarmerie.
"The examination included an enormous number of documents, electronic equipment sequestered from the suspects and information taken from witnesses," the Holy See's news media reported.
The indictment also names the cardinal's "glamour girl," Cecilia Marogna, who allegedly pocketed over half a million euros from the Secretariat of State for covert "consultancy" services.
Becciu allegedly paid fellow-Sardinian Marogna to coordinate intelligence activities with a view to protecting papal nunciatures in Africa and the Middle East from terrorists, as well as to negotiate the release of missionary priests and nuns kidnapped by criminal organizations.
An investigation by Italian television progam Le Iene showed Marogna spending €200,000 ($236,000) on luxury products, including €8,000 ($9,447) at Chanel and €12,000 ($14,170) for a high-end Poltrona Frau armchair.
Becciu's assistant, Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who was entrusted "solely and specifically" with the task of speaking with Vatican broker Gianluigi Torzi, has also been charged, along with Torzi.
Other defendants include Enrico Crasso (a broker who managed investments for the Secretariat of State), Raffaele Mincione (a broker who made the Secretariat of State underwrite large shares of the fund that owned the London property, later using the money for his own speculative investments) and lawyer Nicola Squillace.
The then-president of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority (AIF), René Bruelhart, and former director of the AIF Tommaso di Ruzza are charged with abuse of office for failing to adequately protect the Vatican's interests.
The indictment also names Fabrizio Tirabassi, a notetaker in the Secretariat of State who played a leading role in the scam.
The judge has further named four companies associated with individual defendants, two in Switzerland, one in the United States and one in Slovenia, according to the indictment.
Even though Vatican authorities deny using funds from Peter's Pence for the toxic investment, magistrates found almost half a billion euros from the pope's charitable fund were used as collateral for speculative financial transactions, according to the Italian newspaper Domani.
Becciu is also alleged to have orchestrated a "media campaign to discredit our magistrates," but continued to insist on his innocence as news of the indictment broke Saturday.
The cardinal said "dark plots" are being woven against him but that he had only responded by "suffering in silence."
In a Church Militant article responding to the Becciu scandal, Vatican whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò explained how Francis had "surrounded himself with widely compromised characters" like homopredator Theodore McCarrick, "giving them official assignments, then kicking them out as soon as their scandals were exposed."
But others insist Francis' willingness to sanction the indictment of a top cardinal who was also his close friend signals the pontiff's clear intention to clean house when it comes to financial wrongdoing.