USA financial news

Vatican places cardinal on trial for monetary crimes

The Vatican has taken the unprecedented step of placing a sitting cardinal on trial to face monetary corruption expenses linked to investments in luxurious London property that used Catholic charitable cash.

The indictment of Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who till final yr was the cardinal overseeing the physique answerable for deciding on Catholic saints, marks a dramatic acceleration of Pope Francis’s drive to reform the funds of the Holy See after many years of controversies.

The Vatican mentioned a trial would start this month in what marks the primary time in fashionable Catholic historical past {that a} cardinal has confronted expenses of monetary crimes. Becciu was one of the highly effective males contained in the Holy See earlier than Pope Francis pressured him to resign from his senior clerical put up final yr, a course of that left Becciu a cardinal in title solely.

Additionally charged are 4 different present or former Vatican officers and 5 exterior consultants, together with two London-based businessmen, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, on varied expenses together with fraud, embezzlement, cash laundering and abuse of workplace.

The costs introduced by the Vatican on Saturday, in an investigation in collaboration with Italy’s monetary police, are linked to a collection of difficult monetary investments overseen by Becciu together with the acquisition of a giant constructing within the Chelsea district of London.

Pope Francis has taken a far stronger stance on stamping out monetary corruption inside the Vatican than his predecessors, and has enacted sweeping reforms to the way in which the Catholic Church manages its investments.

Earlier than being appointed a cardinal in 2018, Becciu was the second-in-command of the Vatican’s highly effective inner forms, the Secretariat of State which managed the so-called Peter’s Pence charitable donations made by the trustworthy to the Catholic Church. Final yr Pope Francis, stripped the Secretariat of its management of those funds.

After the announcement of the fees and the trial, Becciu mentioned he denied any wrongdoing and welcomed the prospect to clear his title.

“I’m the sufferer of a plot hatched towards me and I’ve been ready for a very long time to know any accusations towards me, to permit myself to promptly deny them and show to the world my absolute innocence,” Becciu mentioned in a press release made via his attorneys.

The Vatican mentioned it had made the fees after an inner investigation that started in July 2019 and has since concerned working with Italy’s Monetary Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Workplace of Rome, in addition to requests for help from different nations together with the UK, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

The Vatican mentioned these investigations had “dropped at mild an enormous community of relationships with operators within the monetary markets which have generated substantial losses for the Vatican funds, having additionally drawn on the sources supposed for the non-public charitable works of the Holy Father”.

Central to the case is the Vatican’s funding in a luxurious London property improvement referred to as 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea that was managed on its behalf by Athena Capital, a Luxembourg-based fund based by Mincione.

This property was offered in 2018 by Mincione to the Vatican outright in a deal brokered by Torzi, a enterprise affiliate of Mincione. In that sale, the Vatican alleges Torzi proceeded to extort cash from the Holy See and the transaction triggered enormous losses for the Catholic Church.

Torzi, an Italian businessman based mostly in London who was arrested earlier this yr within the UK on the request of the Vatican and Italian authorities, has denied any wrongdoing. 

Mincione, an Italian ex-banker who lives within the UK, has additionally denied any wrongdoing. Final yr, he started authorized proceedings towards the Vatican within the English courts, in search of a ruling that he and his corporations acted always correctly and in good religion of their dealings with the Vatican. When contacted by the Monetary Occasions, Mincione and his authorized representatives didn’t reply to a request to remark.

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