Italian Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, one of Pope Francis’ potential successors, will be tried along with nine other people for possible embezzlement and other crimes against the Vatican’s portfolio of assets, including donations from numerous faithful.
A two-year investigation uncovered a web of scandals contained in 500 pages of indictments and 30,000 pages of supporting documents in the case, which defense lawyers say they will not be able to study, according to Fox News July 27.
According to prosecutors: The principal defendants are “actors in a rotten predatory and lucrative system, sometimes made possible thanks to limited, but very incisive, complicity and internal connivance,” TRTWorld noted.
Becci, 73, was also implicated in entanglements with his “niece,” kidnapped nuns, and $490 million worth of real estate in Chelsea, London, England, The Times reports.
He is also accused of pressuring a monsignor to retract information he gave to prosecutors about the management of the Vatican’s controversial real estate investment in London.
Also, among the defendants is Cecilia Marogna, an external security consultant. She allegedly embezzled $800,000 intended as a ransom for kidnappers of Catholic hostages abroad.
In her defense, Marogna argued that the monies she took were reimbursement for her intelligence-related expenses and that the rest of the money was her compensation.
Others implicated are a Swiss lawyer and former head of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Rene Bruelhart, and Italian investment broker Gianluca Torzi, who Italian magistrates want to extradite from England on other charges, according to RT.
The Holy See’s losses would amount to tens of millions of dollars in donated funds, caused by bad investments, dealings with shady money managers, and alleged favors to friends and family.
Faced with the magnitude of the scandal, Becciu, one of the Pope’s most influential advisors and chief of staff, was dismissed on suspicion of nepotism and embezzlement.
The Vatican City State has a justice system and even a prison. Cardinals and bishops based in the Vatican can be prosecuted and tried by the Holy See’s secular criminal court. Previously they could only be tried by their peers, forming a tribunal of three cardinals.
In this case, a retired chief prosecutor from Rome who initially dealt with Sicily’s mafia and economic crimes, Giuseppe Pignatone, will act as presiding judge.
The trial against Becciu and the other defendants will be the most significant criminal trial in the Vatican’s modern history and held in a large hall in the Vatican Museums.
Italian journalist, Cesare Sacchetti, reports: “The money used to place highly risk financial bets came from Bergoglio’s [the Pope] bank account ,” to whom he attributes responsibility for alleged “negligence in supervising Becciu and the other cardinals.”
In this context, the BBC comments, “The risk for the Pope, and the Church, is that this trial will open up the possible mismanagement of the Holy See’s finances to further public scrutiny.”