Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

The pope’s former deputy secretary of state and nine others have been found guilty in the Vatican’s biggest financial corruption scandal.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu was convicted of embezzlement on Saturday and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Becciu, the first cardinal prosecuted by the Vatican criminal court, was absolved of several other charges and nine other defendants received a combination of guilty verdicts and acquittals among the nearly 50 charges brought against them during a two-and-a-half-year trial.

The charges against the defendants included embezzlement, corruption, abuse of office, fraud, witness tampering and extortion – with the trial revolving mostly around a luxury building in Chelsea.

Becciu was the pope’s chief of staff, serving as a key diplomat between 2011 and 2018.

His lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said he respected the sentence but would appeal against it.

The two-year-long trial, led by jury president and former anti-mafia prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone, centered on the management of the funds of the secretariat of state and the sale of a property on London’s Sloane Avenue paid for with donation funds.

The former Harrods showroom was bought for €350m (£300m), while the real value was just €210m (£180m). The botched real estate deal defrauded the Vatican and caused a €140m loss (£120m).

This landmark probe exposed the Vatican’s financial dysfunction and was considered an indication of Pope Francis’ desire to fix the money mismanagement.

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Cardinal Angelo Becciu with the pope in 2021. Pic: AP

Italian journalist Massimiliano Coccia, who first discovered the scandal which led Pope Francis to fire Becciu in 2020, told Sky News this is an unprecedented verdict in Vatican’s history.

Becciu filed a defamation suit against Mr Coccia claiming that his ruined reputation has eliminated his chances of becoming pope.

However, an Italian civil court recently rejected it. Becciu was then forced to pay Coccia’s legal costs.

Becciu is also being probed for conspiracy to commit crime in relation to a social cooperative run by his brother in the cardinal’s native Sardinia.

According to messages intercepted by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza police, Becciu told his family in a chat that Pope Francis wanted him dead days before this trial started.

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The post Former Vatican official Angelo Becciu jailed for five-and-a-half years over corruption scandal appeared first on WorldNewsEra.


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