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A cardinal and 9 others will learn their fate in a Vatican financial trial after 2 years of hearings

by Sophia Chen
1 comment
Cardinal Becciu Vatican Trial

A high-stakes Vatican financial trial, spanning two long years of hearings, is about to reach its conclusion as a verdict awaits Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine other individuals. This complex trial has laid bare the inner workings of the Vatican’s financial dealings and put its justice system to the test.

The verdicts will be delivered by Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, leading a three-judge panel, in a specially converted courtroom within the Vatican Museums. This legal battle has revolved around intricate details surrounding a financially ill-fated investment in a luxurious London property.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a historic figure as the first cardinal to face prosecution in the Vatican’s criminal court, stands accused of embezzlement-related charges related to two aspects of the London deal. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to seven years in prison. Throughout the 86 hearings, Cardinal Becciu maintained a notable presence, emphasizing his willingness to submit to the court’s judgment following his forced resignation and removal of cardinal privileges by Pope Francis, even before formal charges were filed.

This trial has raised questions about the rule of law within the Vatican and the extent of Pope Francis’ authority as an absolute monarch, wielding supreme legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Some argue that this concentration of authority has the potential to compromise the fairness of the trial.

While defense attorneys commend Judge Pignatone’s impartiality and their ability to present arguments, they also express concerns about the Vatican’s outdated procedural norms. These norms provide prosecutors with significant latitude in withholding evidence and conducting investigations with minimal hindrance.

Apart from Cardinal Becciu, nine others are facing charges related to various financial crimes stemming from a 350 million euro investment by the secretariat of state in transforming a former Harrod’s warehouse into luxury apartments. Prosecutors allege that Vatican monsignors and brokers extracted tens of millions of euros in fees and commissions and later demanded 15 million euros from the Holy See to cede control of the building.

The charges against the accused encompass nearly 50 different counts, including fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, corruption, abuse of office, and extortion. Prosecutors are seeking prison sentences ranging from three to 13 years, along with damages exceeding 400 million euros to recover the estimated 200 million euros the Holy See lost in these ill-fated ventures.

Initially seen as a manifestation of Pope Francis’ financial reforms and commitment to addressing alleged financial wrongdoings within the Vatican, the trial has taken a somewhat unexpected turn. Revelations of vendettas, espionage, and even ransom payments to Islamic militants have tarnished the Holy See’s reputation.

For instance, the secretariat of state is seeking compensation for a marketing campaign to mitigate the reputational damage it claims to have suffered. Even the Vatican’s communications department acknowledges that the trial itself has served as a rigorous test for the legal system.

The crux of the London case hinges on the property’s transfer from one London broker to another in late 2018. Prosecutors assert that the second broker, Gianluigi Torzi, deceived the Vatican and secured full control of the building, only relinquishing it after receiving a 15 million euro payment. This payment is viewed as extortion by Vatican prosecutors but as a negotiated exit from a binding contract by the defense and a British judge who rejected Vatican attempts to seize Torzi’s assets.

Two former managers of the Vatican’s financial watchdog, Rene Bruelhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, face charges of abuse of office for not blocking the payment to Torzi and failing to report it to Vatican prosecutors. They contend that they were following Pope Francis’ directive to regain control of the property from Torzi, as the Vatican realized it didn’t own the building. They cite written testimony from Monsignor Edgar Pena Parra, the Vatican’s chief of staff, who indicated that Vatican lawyers advised against suing Torzi due to the weak case. The negotiated payout with Torzi was deemed the best option in terms of cost, risk, and outcome, aligning with the Pope’s wishes to move forward.

The initial London investigation led to two other tangents involving Cardinal Becciu, a former top advisor to Pope Francis, who faced accusations of embezzlement for directing Vatican funds to a Sardinian charity run by his brother. Becciu maintained that the local bishop had requested the funds for a bakery employing at-risk youths, and the money remained within the diocesan coffers. Furthermore, Becciu was accused of paying Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian woman, for her intelligence services. Prosecutors traced approximately 575,000 euros in wire transfers from the Vatican to a Slovenian front company owned by Marogna. Becciu claimed that the funds were intended to secure the release of Gloria Narvaez, a Colombian nun held hostage by Islamic militants in Mali in 2017, with Pope Francis authorizing a significant sum for the potential ransom payment. Marogna, also on trial, denies any wrongdoing.

The conclusion of this lengthy and intricate trial holds significant implications for the Vatican’s financial transparency, the exercise of papal authority, and the pursuit of justice in the world’s smallest city-state.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vatican financial trial

What is the Vatican financial trial about?

The Vatican financial trial centers on allegations of embezzlement and extortion related to a 350 million euro investment by the Vatican’s secretariat of state in a luxury London property.

Who are the main figures involved in the trial?

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the first cardinal ever prosecuted in the Vatican’s criminal court, is a prominent figure in the trial. Additionally, nine others, including Vatican monsignors and brokers, face charges in connection with the investment.

What are the charges against Cardinal Angelo Becciu?

Cardinal Becciu is accused of embezzlement-related charges in two aspects of the London property deal. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison. He also faces allegations of directing Vatican funds to a Sardinian charity and paying for intelligence services.

What is the significance of this trial for the Vatican?

The trial has raised questions about the Vatican’s rule of law and the extent of Pope Francis’ authority. It was initially seen as a move to address financial misdeeds but has exposed various controversies and challenges within the Holy See.

What penalties are prosecutors seeking in this trial?

Prosecutors are seeking convictions on nearly 50 different charges, including fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, corruption, abuse of office, and extortion. They are also seeking prison terms ranging from three to 13 years and damages exceeding 400 million euros to recover the Holy See’s estimated losses.

How did the trial impact the reputation of the Vatican?

The trial has led to revelations of vendettas, espionage, and even ransom payments to Islamic militants, which have tarnished the Vatican’s reputation. It has also been described as a “stress test” for the Vatican’s legal system.

What was the central issue in the London case?

The core issue in the London case revolved around the transfer of the property between two brokers. Prosecutors claim that the second broker, Gianluigi Torzi, extorted the Vatican by securing control of the building and receiving a 15 million euro payment.

How did the Vatican’s financial watchdog managers become involved?

Rene Bruelhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, former managers of the Vatican’s financial watchdog, were accused of abuse of office for not blocking the payment to Torzi. They argued that they were acting in line with Pope Francis’ directive to regain control of the property.

What role did Pope Francis play in this trial?

Pope Francis played a significant role, as he forced Cardinal Becciu’s resignation and removal of cardinal privileges even before formal charges were filed. His involvement raised questions about the separation of powers within the Vatican.

What are the broader implications of this trial?

The trial’s conclusion holds implications for the Vatican’s financial transparency, the exercise of papal authority, and the pursuit of justice within the world’s smallest city-state.

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1 comment

CryptoExpert2020 December 16, 2023 - 7:28 pm

wow! Vatican trial so intense, Becciu in big trouble, questions ’bout Pope power & justice sys!

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