Vatican judges powerful Cardinal Becciu for corruption

Archive image.  Cardinal Angelo Becciu, in St. Peter's Basilica, in the Vatican, on June 28, 2018.

© Andreas Solaro / AFP
Archive image. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican, on June 28, 2018.

A historic trial begins in the Vatican, for being the first time someone of the rank of a cardinal has been tried. Angelo Becciu, who was one of Pope Francis’ henchmen, faces corruption charges along with nine other people. This is the story.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, once one of the most powerful men in the Curia, now sits on the dock. Facing allegations of corruption and embezzlement, among others, Becciu is the highest-ranking man on trial in Vatican history.

The historic process began on Tuesday, July 27, in a specially equipped room of the Vatican Museum, behind closed doors and only with the presence of some journalists. In addition to Becciu, nine other people are also charged.

The process seeks to clarify whether the defendants fraudulently invested some 350 million euros in 2013 in a London building with funds from the St. Peter’s Obolus, which keeps donations to finance charitable works.

The purchase of this building, which was priced above its usual value, could involve crimes of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, extortion, fraud and abuse of power.

The scandal was uncovered in 2019, when Italian media discovered that the Vatican had suspended several Vatican officials from employment after detecting “serious indications of corruption.”

Becciu was, precisely, the person in charge of real estate operations in 2013. Later, he left office to become prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, appointed by Pope Francis himself.

The Pontiff acknowledged in November 2020 statements that there was corruption in the Vatican’s finances, although he defended that the complaints had reached the appropriate channels within the institution and that the appropriate measures had been taken.

Becciu: “I am a victim of a plot”

The cardinal has always defended his innocence. “I am the victim of a deliberate plot against me and I have been waiting for a long time to learn the charges against me and to quickly deny them and prove to the world my absolute innocence.” So spoke Becciu on July 3, just after learning the date of the trial.

This man, one of the most influential in the Catholic religious institution, resigned from his positions in September 2020 in the wake of the scandal, after Pope Francis asked him to do so. However, he is still a cardinal, although he will not be able to participate in the conclaves again.

He was precisely one of the closest collaborators of the current pontiff who appointed him special delegate to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2017 to replace Matthew Festing, who did not get on well with Francis.

Later, in May 2018, the pope appointed him prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Becciu, a 73-year-old Italian, went to work for the Holy See in the 1980s and made a career primarily as a diplomat for the Vatican.

Vatican finance director prosecuted

Among the other people on trial is also René Brülhart, former president of the Vatican Financial Authority. This lay lawyer, the first to occupy the position, is accused of abuse of power and it is suspected that he did not prevent commissions from being paid to some brokers who participated in the real estate fraud operation.

Brülhart was also appointed by Pope Francis in November 2014. When the corruption scandal broke out, the lawyer resigned, claiming it was because the five-year term had ended.

Además de Beccio y Brülhart, se someten al juicio Mauro Carlino; Enrico Crasso; Tommaso Di Ruzza; Cecilia Marogna; Raffaele Minciono; Nicola Squillace; Fabrizio Tirabassi and Gianlugi Torzi.

The process also indicts four companies: HP Finance LLC, Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, Prestige Family Office and Sogenel Capital Investment, all with fraud and fraud charges.

With EFE and local media

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