Cardinal jailed for embezzlement after historic Vatican trial

Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican’s promoter of justice and chief prosecutor, had sought a total of 73 years in prison for the 10 defendants, along with fines. The prosecutor had asked for seven years and three months in prison against the cardinal.

The trial exposed the incompetence in the Vatican’s handling of its vast wealth, which in recent years has been revealed to amount to around 4 billion euros.

It also laid bare the divisions within the Church and exposed the extent of the resistance faced by Pope Francis, who was elected with a mandate to overhaul the management of the Vatican’s finances.

London property worth £279 million

At the heart of the trial was Becciu’s involvement in a 324 million euro real estate deal in London, when he was the second figure in the Vatican Secretariat of State – the small state’s administrative and diplomatic arm – where he managed millions of euros. in church funds, some of which are donations from ordinary Catholics.

Becciu oversaw the purchase of about 45 percent of the building through a fund managed by Raffaele Mincione, an Italian financier who was once engaged to the model Heather Mills before she married and then divorced Sir Paul McCartney.

In 2018, by the time Becciu had moved to the job overseeing the canonization of saints, the Secretariat of State suspected it had been misled by Mincione and asked another financier, Gianluigi Torzi, to help squeeze Mincione out of the investment and buy the rest. off the building.

When Pope Francis learned about the details of the deal, he is said to have become angry that millions of euros were paid to intermediaries who brokered the deal and ordered a thorough investigation, prompting the trial.

Prosecutors accused Vatican brokers and employees of cheating the Holy See of tens of millions of euros in fees and commissions and then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to cede control of the properties. The Vatican sold the building last year, making an estimated loss of around €140 million.

Mincione was sentenced to five years and six months in prison, while Torzi was sentenced to six years.

‘Intelligence Agent’ received £494,000

Becciu, who was fired from his second job by Pope Francis in 2020 for alleged favoritism, was also accused of sending Vatican money to family and friends.

Recipients of his largesse reportedly included his three brothers, who ran several businesses and charities on their native island of Sardinia, as well as Cecilia Marogna, a 46-year-old Italian woman who claimed to be an intelligence agent running a system of “parallel diplomacy.” who protected the Vatican embassies in Africa and the Middle East from terrorist attacks.

Marogna, who met Becciu in 2016 and offered her services to the secretariat as an expert on intelligence matters, received €575,000 (£494,375) from the Vatican department through a company she set up in Slovenia.

The money was sent to her to help free a Colombian nun who was taken hostage by Islamic militants in Mali in 2017. Instead, Marogna was accused of spending much of the money on resort vacations and luxury goods, including designer handbags, expensive furniture and accessories. holidays.

The prosecutor also suggested a sexual relationship between Becciu and the intelligence agent, which they both denied. Marogna, who was accused of embezzlement, was sentenced to three years and nine months.

René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, former president and former director respectively of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, a watchdog body established under Pope Benedict XVI, were found not guilty of any offense and were fined around €1,800 (£1,547). . They had been accused of abuse of office and other charges in connection with the real estate transactions in London.

The court’s decisions can be appealed.

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