For the first time in nearly 300 years, a cardinal accused of fraud is facing a Vatican tribunal. Tuesday is the first day of the historic trial of Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others over suspicious transactions at the Secretariat of State.
The charges include embezzlement, financial crimes, corruption, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office. Because of the large number of defendants and the lawyers representing them, the trial will be held in a room in the Vatican Museums made available to the Court. It is the largest trial in the recent history of the Vatican.
An investigation into the matter was launched by the Vatican in 2019, when it came to light that the purchase of the Sloane Square townhouse was accompanied by numerous irregularities, and was also made with funds from the holy donation intended for the Pope’s charity.
The former head of the Financial Information Authority (AIF) Rene Brulhart is accused of abuse of office. The same charge was heard by Father Mauro Carlino, who worked at the Secretariat of State and is also accused of extortion. Tommaso Di Ruzza, a former director with AIF, will answer for embezzling money.
Businessman Enrico Crasso will be tried for corruption, extortion, money laundering and fraud. Cardinal Becciu’s associate Cecilia Marogna, who received large sums of money from the Secretariat of State as a consultant to carry out special diplomatic assignments, faces embezzlement charges. She spent the funds in luxury boutiques and hotels.
Also on the docket will be Italian-Swiss financier Raffaele Mincione, lawyer Nicola Squillace, a former employee of the administrative office at the Secretariat of State Fabrizio Tirabassi, and middleman Gianluigi Torzi, who investigators say extorted €15 million from the Vatican for another transaction.
It is hoped that it will be a turning point for the financial credibility of the Vatican and a clear signal that no one is above the law. All face prison terms and fines.