Vatican Tries Senior Cardinal, 9 Others, in Massive Fraud Case

Newly elevated cardinal, Giovanni Angelo Becciu from Italy, attends the courtesy visit of relatives following a consistory for the creation of new cardinals on June 28, 2018 in the Apostolic Palace at St Peter's Basilica in Vatican. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The Vatican opened a criminal trial Tuesday against a high-level cardinal and nine other defendants accused of criminal mismanagement of the Holy See’s portfolio of assets.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former sostituto of the powerful Vatican Secretariat of State whom Pope Francis raised to the rank of cardinal in 2018, faces trial for embezzlement, abuse of office, and bribery.

The 73-year-old Becciu has been indicted together with nine others for alleged financial wrongdoing culminating in the purchase of an investment property in London’s Tony Chelsea district in 2018 to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Pope Francis stripped Cardinal Becciu of his post in the Vatican last year along with the rights and privileges enjoyed by members of the College of Cardinals, including voting in the next papal conclave, after he was tied to a number of crooked financial deals.

The trial is taking place in a large hall in the Vatican Museums that has been converted into a makeshift courtroom to house the largest criminal trial in the modern Vatican history. The presiding judge is Giuseppe Pignatone, a retired chief prosecutor of Rome.

The dubious purchase of the London property was just one of a number of financial scandals to hit the Vatican in recent years, which range from asking U.S. benefactors millions of dollars to bail out a corruption-laden Italian hospital to the investment of millions to finance questionable enterprises like the steamy Elton John biopic Rocket Man, which reportedly contained “the most explicit gay love scene since Brokeback Mountain in 2005.”

Even prior to indicting Becciu, its own former number-3 man, in 2018, the Holy See also indicted the former president of the Vatican Bank for embezzlement.

The revelation that mis-invested funds had come from monies donated by the Catholic faithful through  “Peter’s Pence” collections, which finance the pope’s charitable actions around the world, further aggravated the scandals.

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