Cardinal jailed for embezzlement in historic Vatican corruption trial

16 December 2023, 18:57

The charges against the defendants included embezzlement, corruption, abuse of office, fraud, witness tampering and extortion.
The charges against the defendants included embezzlement, corruption, abuse of office, fraud, witness tampering and extortion. Picture: Getty
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

A Vatican tribunal has convicted a cardinal of embezzlement, sentencing him to five-and-a-half years in prison in the landmark case.

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Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, became the first cardinal to be prosecuted by the Vatican criminal court for embezzling millions of pounds.

Becciu's lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said he respected the sentence but would appeal against it.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said the outcome "showed we were correct".

He and two outside brokers were among ten defendants described by Vatican prosecutors as "actors in a rotten predatory and lucrative system".

Becciu, a former adviser to Pope Francis, was charged with financial crimes and sentenced on Saturday to five years and six months in prison.

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However, the cardinal was cleared of several other charges and nine other defendants received a combination of guilty verdicts and acquittals among the 50 charges brought against them during the two-and-a-half-year trial.

Although, the tribunal ordered the confiscation of 166 million euros (£143 million) from them and payment of civil damages to Vatican offices of €200 million.

The charges against the defendants included embezzlement, corruption, abuse of office, fraud, witness tampering and extortion.

The trial centred on the Vatican secretary of state’s €350 million (£300 million) investment, developing a former Harrods warehouse into luxury flats.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Vatican monsignors and brokers tricked the Holy See of tens of millions of euros and the Holy See of tens of millions of euros in fees and commissions.

Becciu's lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said he respected the sentence but would appeal against it.
Becciu's lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said he respected the sentence but would appeal against it. Picture: Getty

They then extorted the Holy See for €15 million (£12.9 million) to give up control of the building.

In the end, he was convicted of embezzlement stemming from the original investment of €200 million (£172 million) in a fund that bought into the London property, as well as for his €125,000 (£107,000) donation of Vatican money to a charity run by his brother in Sardinia.

He was also convicted of using Vatican money to pay an intelligence analyst who in turn was convicted of using the money for herself.

One defendant, Becciu's former secretary Monsignor Mauro Carlino, was acquitted entirely.

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