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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican State prosecutor has requested judges to impose a prison term of seven years and three months on a leading cardinal, along with stiff prison sentences, fines, asset confiscation, and other penalties for all 10 defendants involved in the Vatican's highly publicized "mother of all trials."
Promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi has additionally called for Cdl. Giovanni Angelo Becciu to be permanently barred from holding any public office, fined $11,600 and subjected to the confiscation of his assets amounting to $15.5 million.
The 75-year-old cardinal, who formerly held the second-highest position as deputy (sostituto) in the Vatican's secretariat of state, stands accused of embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy and subornation of witnesses. This makes Becciu the first cardinal in the history of the church to face charges before a Vatican court.
Diddi is further demanding a collective sentence of 73 years and one month for the 10 defendants involved in various charges related to the failed $400 million real estate venture in London's upscale Sloane Avenue. The site, intended for conversion into luxury apartments for the wealthy elite, was a former industrial building.
The Vatican's promoter of justice claims that the Holy See incurred losses estimated to be between $155 million and $210 million due to the failed deal.
Cardinal Becciu, who has been on trial since mid-2021, has vehemently denied all accusations, consistently asserting his innocence. During Tuesday's court session, he expressed his feelings, stating, "I feel deeply wounded both as an individual and as a priest."
Becciu maintains that the London deal was executed after he left the Secretariat of State in June of 2018 and was managed by his successor, Abp. Edgar Peña Parra.
In an unprecedented move in September 2020, Pope Francis fired the once-favored cardinal from his post as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and stripped him of the rights connected with the cardinalate.
Becciu expressed his dismay at a private press conference, saying, "Yesterday until 6:02 p.m., I felt a friend of the pope, a faithful executor of the pope. Then the pope says that he no longer has faith in me because the magistrates reported that I would have committed acts of embezzlement."
The cardinal made headlines in 2019 for authorizing the controversial purchase of a property on 60 Sloane Avenue in London for more than $200 million, allegedly using funds from Peter's Pence.
However, in a surprising turn of events during closing arguments, the Vatican's chief prosecutor admitted to falsely asserting that the London deal was financed with money from the pope's charitable fund for the poor.
Diddi informed the judges that the money had, in fact, come from profits of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, a Vatican bank, and had been deposited by the secretariat into Swiss banks.
The prosecutor slammed former officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, "who did not know how to interpret the spirit and ideals of the Church," which includes "being bound by canon law to administer church assets with care, vigilance, and due diligence."
Cardinal Becciu is also accused of giving €600,000 ($708,540) to Cecilia Marogna, described as a "super-fixer," who is said to have pocketed over half a million euros from the Vatican for undisclosed "consultancy" and "parallel diplomacy."
Nicknamed the "cardinal's glamour girl," the 43-year-old reportedly used the funds from Becciu to coordinate intelligence activities aimed at safeguarding papal nunciatures in Africa and the Middle East from environmental risks and terrorist cells. She also claimed to negotiate the release of kidnapped missionary priests and nuns.
An investigation by Italian TV Le Iene revealed Marogna spending €200,000 ($236,000) on luxury products, including €8,000 ($9,447) at Chanel and €12,000 ($14,170) on a high-end Poltrona Frau armchair.
"I didn't steal a single euro," Marogna stated, defending her expenses. "I think I have the right to buy myself an armchair after all that work!"
Under Becciu's leadership, the Vatican's Secretariat of State reportedly used a €528 million Vatican-donations portfolio to purchase credit default swaps, speculating that Hertz would not default on its debts by April 2020, Church Militant reported.
A CDS is a financial derivative that allows an investor to swap or offset his credit risk with that of another investor. Derivatives are financial contracts whose value depends on the future price of an asset such as a share, a currency, a commodity or an index.
Derivatives, used primarily for hedging, can also spur speculation to the point of destabilizing markets and have spawned numerous bankruptcies.
The Vatican escaped by a narrow margin of a month and gained from its gamble after Hertz filed for bankruptcy in May 2020 following the economic crisis created by the Wuhan pandemic.
The trial will resume in late September, following Italy's traditional August holidays, and the judges are expected to deliver verdicts in early December.