Vatican indicts 10, including cardinal, of financial crimes

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The Vatican announced on Saturday that 10 people will be charged with financial crimes, including a well-known Italian cardinal. The charges included embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office related to financial investments made by the Vatican’s financial arm in London in 2018.

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who held a senior position in the Vatican administration, will be tried on July 27, along with two senior officials from the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit. The focus of the process is the multi-million dollar purchase of a building in one of the most beautiful areas of London by the Vatican.

The Vatican made its investigation into the crimes public in 2019 when Vatican police raided the offices of the State Secretariat, the Central Administrator of the Catholic Church and the offices of the Vatican Financial Information Bureau.

The Vatican claims that the State Secretariat bought around half of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in the Chelsea district of London for € 200 million in 2014. Much of the funds for the purchase allegedly came from donations from the faithful.

Becciu, now 73, was asked by Pope Francis in 2020 to resign for embezzlement and nepotism. He is currently the highest ranking Vatican official charged with financial crimes, but has protested his innocence during the two-year investigation. Becciu retained his title but lost all of his cardinal privileges, including the right to vote for the next pope.

Pope Francis last week gave the necessary clearance for the cardinal’s indictment, detailed in a 487-page indictment, according to Reuters. The Vatican announced the charges in a bilateral statement.

The allegations against Becciu include “the crimes of embezzlement and abuse of office, also in collaboration, as well as understatement”. The Cardinal’s former secretary was charged with extortion, and an Italian who worked for him was also charged with embezzlement.

According to the press release, four companies who had anything to do with the individual defendants were also indicted, including one in Slovenia, one in the United States and two in Switzerland.

Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, two Italian realtors who worked with Becciu, have been charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering.

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