St Peters Square, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.
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Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the most senior Catholic Church official ever to stand trial before a Vatican criminal court, was convicted on Saturday of embezzlement and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail.
The Italian prelate’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, told reporters in the courtroom that he would appeal, saying his client was innocent. Becciu, who lives in the Vatican, was expected to remain free for the time being.
In all, 10 defendants were accused of crimes including fraud, abuse of office and money laundering. All had denied wrongdoing.
It took Court President Giuseppe Pignatone 25 minutes to read all the verdicts and sentences.
Becciu, like most of the other defendants, was convicted on some counts and acquitted of others. Only one was acquitted of all charges.
The trial, which exposed infighting and intrigue in the highest echelons of the Vatican, lasted for 86 sessions over two-and-a-half years.
It revolved mostly around the messy purchase of a building in London by the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s key administrative and diplomatic department.
Becciu held the number two position there in 2014 when it began investing in a fund managed by Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, securing about 45% of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, in an upmarket district.
Mincione was also found guilty of embezzlement and given the same sentence as Becciu.
In 2018, with Becciu in another Vatican job, the Secretariat of State felt it was being deceived by Mincione and turned to another financier, Gianluigi Torzi, for help in squeezing Mincione out and buying the rest of the building.
Torzi also fleeced the Vatican, according to prosecutors. He was found guilty of fraud and extortion and sentenced to six years.
The Vatican sold the building last year under a cloud of embarrassment, taking an estimated loss of about 140 million euros ($150 million).
Becciu, who was fired by Pope Francis from his next job in 2020 for alleged nepotism, but remains a cardinal, was also found guilty of one embezzlement for funnelling money and contracts to companies or charities controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.
Another accusation involved his hiring of Cecilia Marogna, a self-styled security analyst, also from Sardinia, as part of a secret project to help win freedom for a nun who had been kidnapped in Mali.
Marogna, 46, received 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State in 2018-2019. The money was sent to a company she had set up in Slovenia and she received some in cash, prosecutors told the court.
Italian police said Marogna had spent much of the money on luxury clothing and health spas. Both she and Becciu were found guilty of charges related to the transfer of money.
The other six defendants included the former president and director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence unit, the cardinal’s former secretary, Father Mauro Carlino, and three former Vatican employees.