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Friday, February 23, 2024

Vatican. Cardinal Becciu sentenced to five and a half years in prison

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The trial of Cardinal Becciu, sentenced on Saturday to five and a half years in prison for financial irregularities in the Holy See, revealed – as assessed by the daily “Corriere della Sera” – a whole series of scandals, irregularities, reckless approach to finances and sharp conflicts between institutions Bronze Gate. The cardinal’s defense announces an appeal.

Tried together with Cardinal Becciu Vatican nine other people, including financiers and employees of the Secretariat of State. The main topic of the trial was the purchase of a luxurious tenement house in London for over EUR 300 million with the funds of the Secretariat of State. When the transaction was revealed, the property was sold by the Vatican at a huge loss.

The Italian cardinal’s defense announced that it would file an appeal and emphasized that he was innocent. The prosecutor demanded seven years and three months in prison for the Italian cardinal. Other accused intermediaries in the transaction were also sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to seven years, including financier Gianluigi Torzi, who was sentenced to six years.

“Trial of the Century”

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The media called the case that started almost two and a half years ago before the tribunal of the Vatican City State the “trial of the century”. As deputy secretary of state, Becciu was the third person in the hierarchy of the Holy See.

Giovanni Angelo BecciuGrzegorz GALAZKA/East News

This process, according to commentators, was also a test of the effectiveness of the operation of organizing finances and their transparency, initiated almost 10 years ago by Pope Francis. For this reason, as the Vaticanists noted, both the authority of the Pope and the credibility of the Church’s social teaching were at stake.

The verdict was passed just before the Pope’s 87th birthday on Sunday. During the trial at the Vatican tribunal, over 80 hearings took place, closely watched by journalists.

Details of the accusation

Serious charges of financial fraud were brought against 75-year-old Cardinal Becciu and, among others, two financiers: Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi. They were accused of embezzling huge sums of money. The purchase in 2014 – as an investment – for over EUR 300 million of a luxury property on Sloane Avenue in London from the funds of the Secretariat of State was considered such. The funds for this transaction came partly from Saint Peter’s Day, i.e. donations to the pope’s charitable activities.

The losses incurred by the Secretariat of State as a result of this transaction range from 139 to 189 million euros – this is the balance presented to the tribunal by the promoter of justice, i.e. the equivalent of a prosecutor – Alessando Diddi.

Cardinal’s defense Becciu argued that as a substitute (deputy) secretary of state, he dealt with administrative issues and had no influence on the purchase of this property.

Other allegations against Becciu

Although the case of the London tenement house was at the center of the trial, the cardinal from Sardinia was also accused of making transfers from the funds of the Secretariat of State to the accounts of a cooperative run on this island by his brother. The dignitary refuted these accusations, assuring that the money – a total of over PLN 100,000. euro – were intended for charity purposes.

Another aspect of the case concerned efforts to release a nun kidnapped in Mali by jihadists. On this matter, Becciu contacted the Italian Cecilia Marogna, who presents herself as an expert in international affairs. She received about half a million euros from the Vatican. Then it turned out that instead of working to free the nun, she misappropriated the money given to her. She spent it, among other things, on luxury goods. She also sat on the defendant’s bench.

In connection with the allegations made by the media, Cardinal Becciu, in the fall of 2020, Pope Francis immediately forced the cardinal to resign from the office of prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and deprived him of the privileges of the cardinal dignity, including participation in the next conclave.

The parties who were injured in this process demanded compensation in the total amount of almost EUR 700 million. The Secretariat of State of the Holy See itself demanded compensation in the amount of over EUR 177 million from the defendants. This demand was presented during one of the hearings by his representative, former Italian Minister of Justice, Professor Paola Severino, justifying it with “heavy moral losses” and damaging the reputation of this key institution of the Roman Curia.

Purpurat secretly recorded Pope Francis

During this process, there were also sensational twists and situations that – as observers noted – seemed almost unimaginable. It turned out that the Italian Financial Guard found a recording of Becciu’s conversation with the Pope from July 2021. Purpurat recorded Franciszek secretly.

This conversation took place three days before the opening of the Vatican trial and just after the pope left the hospital after serious intestinal surgery. The disclosed recording shows that third parties also participated in its production and recorded the conversation in consultation with the Italian cardinal. During a 5-minute conversation, the transcript of which was published by the media, Becciu complained to the Pope that he had already “convicted” him and therefore, as he said, this process was unnecessary.

In addition, the purpurat tried to obtain from Francis confirmation that he agreed to pay a ransom for a Colombian nun kidnapped by jihadists in Mali. The Pope did not seem convinced about this in this conversation. Moreover, the recording clearly shows that he had not yet fully recovered from the surgery and was weakened.

The trial of Cardinal Becciu and others accused of financial irregularities in the Holy See revealed – as assessed by the “Corriere della Sera” daily – a whole series of scandals, irregularities, reckless approach to financial matters, questionable investments in real estate, sharp conflicts between institutions behind the Bronze Gate, and in consequently, it led to “dramatic damage to the image, loss of competences and power” by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

It was estimated that over 50,000 articles were published about this scandal. publications in 130 countries. “Looting in the Vatican”, “Wasted money for the poor” – these are some of the article titles she cited.

Main photo source: Grzegorz GALAZKA/East News



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