Vatican Tribunal sends Cardinal Becciu and nine others for trial for misuse of Vatican funds

America [New York NY]

July 3, 2021

By Gerard O'Connell

The Vatican City State’s chief prosecutor has indicted ten persons including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, his former priest secretary, the woman he hired to gather intelligence, and seven laymen. They are accused of crimes related to the misuse of funds managed by the secretariat of state, also in the purchase of a London property. The prosecutor asked that they be sent for trial, and the Vatican Tribunal acceded to his request.

The Vatican broke the news around midday July 3 when it published a decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, acceding to the request, and naming ten persons and four entities— financial companies and a private firm—who are to be sent to trial in relation to the financial investments of the Secretariat of State in London. It said the trial will begin on July 27.

A trial of this nature and dimension has no precedent in the history of the Vatican in the modern era. It is the result of the determination of Pope Francis to ensure transparency in Vatican finances, and to bring to justice whomever is responsible for the misuse, misappropriation, or illicit use of funds, that are for the most part monies given by the faithful to the pope for charitable purposes or for the central government of the Catholic church. The case against the ten is documented in a 500-page deposition submitted by the office of chief prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, to the city-state’s tribunal with the request that they be sent for trial.

The present article is partly based on a synthesis of that deposition provided by Vatican News to journalists.

The charges against the ten vary from person to person, but range from fraud, embezzlement, abuse of office, misappropriation, money laundering, self-laundering of money, corruption, extortion, publication of documents covered by secret, falsifying of a public act, falsifying of private texts.

The Indictment

The indictment comes at the end of a two-year investigation that began following denunciations to the Vatican judicial authorities by the head of the Institute for the Works of Religion (the Vatican bank) on July 2, 2019, and by the Auditor General on Aug. 8, 2019. They lodged their allegations after the secretariat of state asked for a substantial amount of money to buy out the London property, and questioned the financial integrity of the whole operation.

The auditor general noted that most of the secretariat of state’s financial activities were concentrated in Credit Suisse bank, and a substantial part of the deposits were from donations given to the pope through Peter’s Pence and other untitled funds. The prosecutors confirmed the substance of the auditor’s allegations, including that these funds destined for charitable purposes were being used in high risk, speculative operations, incompatible with the will of the donors.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu is pictured at the Vatican in this 2018 photo. Cardinal Becciu, forced to resign in September amid a financial scandal, said Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper with him in his private chapel April 1, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu is pictured at the Vatican in this 2018 photo. Cardinal Becciu, forced to resign in September amid a financial scandal, said Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper with him in his private chapel April 1, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The prosecutors conducted their investigations, with the help of commissions in several countries —the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, Jersey, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The deposition contains vast amounts of documentation obtained from banks and financiers outside Italy, as well as from electronic devices, including computers and smartphones sequestered during the investigation, and from information provided by witnesses, voluntarily or when questioned by prosecutors.

The Charges

Nine of the ten indicted are Italian citizens, the tenth person is Swiss. Their names are in alphabetical order:

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was chief of staff, or “substitute” in the secretariat of state under Benedict XVI and under Francis from 2013-2018, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office, also with others, and witness tampering (subornation).

René Brülhart (a Swiss lawyer who served as president of the board of directors of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority); he is charged with abuse of office.

Rev. Mauro Carlino (secretary of Cardinal Becciu when he was chief-of-staff in the secretariat of state): charged with extortion and abuse of office.

Enrico Grasso (the financial agent who managed the secretariat of state’s investments for some three decades), charged with: embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering and self-money laundering, falsification of public acts committed as a private person, and falsification of private texts.

Tomasso Di Ruzza (former director of the Financial Information Authority, the Vatican’s financial watchdog), is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and violation of secret of office.

Cecilia Marogna (the woman who received much money from the secretariat of state after being hired by Cardinal Becciu to gather intelligence), accused of embezzlement.

Raffaele Mincione (the Italian financier that got the secretariat of state to invest a significant sum of money in his Athena fund for the purchase of a 45 percent share in 60 Sloane Avenue, London, that he owned). Accused of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds and self-laundering of money.

Nicola Squillace (a lawyer involved in the negotiations to get Mr. Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian financier, to buy out the property from Mr. Mincione). He is accused of fraud, misappropriation of funds, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

Fabrizio Tirabassi (a Vatican low level official in the secretariat of state’s administrative office, and protagonist in this affair). He is accused of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of office.

Gianluigi Torzi (the Italian financier brought in by the secretariat of state to enable it buy out the London property from Mincione. He got the Vatican to pay him 15 million euros for its gaining control of that property). He is accused of extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation of funds, money laundering and self-money laundering.

The four companies are:

The four companies are:

HP Finance LLC, linked to Enrico Crasso; the accusation is fraud;

Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, D.O.O., linked to Cecilia Marogna; the accusation is embezzlement;

Prestige Family Office SA, linked to Enrico Crasso; accused of fraud;

Sogenel Capital Investment, linked Enrico Crasso; accused of fraud.

Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent. @gerryorome