VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican’s chief prosecutor has requested a seven-year jail term and over €10,000 in fines for disgraced Cardinal Angelo Becciu due to his reported financial misdeeds.
On July 26, Alessandro Didi, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, requested the Vatican’s court to issue a total of 73 years and one month in jail time to Becciu and his fellow nine defendants as the trial over the scandal surrounding the London property investment draws to a close.
Didi cited the “many crimes against the patrimony of the Holy See” as the basis for the substantial penalties he argued for, the Associated Press reported. Concluding six days of closing arguments, Didi argued that Becciu should be given seven years and three months in jail, fined €10,329 and serve a lifetime ban on holding public office in the Vatican.
In total, Didi argued for the confiscation of €415 million from the 10 defendants to repay the Vatican for the financial losses.
Becciu’s trial is centered on the financial scandal surrounding a Vatican property investment in London that he authorized. The cardinal “personally authorized” transactions and allegedly kept them off official Vatican ledgers in order not to draw the attention of the late Cardinal George Pell, then-Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
After the Vatican initiated its own corruption investigation into Becciu’s dealings in late 2020, Pope Francis accepted Becciu’s resignation when the cardinal renounced his privileges as a cardinal – while retaining the title – and resigned from his post as Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The disgraced prelate was then indicted in July 2021 by the Vatican Tribunal with nine others also indicted for corruption.
Becciu was personally charged with “embezzlement and abuse of office, also in collaboration, as well as subornation.” He is also accused of having channeled money to his brother’s charity, using funds overseen by the Secretariat of State, €100,000 of which came from the Pope’s personal charity, Peter’s Pence.
After Didi’s closing arguments, Becciu’s lawyers once again reiterated the cardinal’s innocence. Maria Concetta Marzo and Fabio Viglione jointly stated that Didi’s requests “do not take into account the results of the trial which proved the absolute innocence of the Cardinal for the operation related to the London Palace and for any other charges.”
They argued that “not even one day” in jail “would be a fair sentence,” demanding instead the “recognition of absolute innocence and full acquittal” for the cardinal, who they described as a “faithful servant of the Church.”
The trial will continue later in the year after a summer hiatus, with a judgment expected before the year is over.
The London flat
In 2014, Becciu bought a stake in 60 Sloane Avenue, a luxury London real estate development using charitable funds from the Vatican as collateral for loans of 200 million euros (around $260 million using conversion rates at the time) that were then funneled through a fund operated by Raffaele Mincione.
Mincione’s company had purchased the property in 2012 and sold a stake in it to the Vatican. When the Vatican finalized its buyout in 2018 – courtesy of Becciu and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, Becciu’s former secretary – Mincione made around £128 million from the Vatican in the process. It was these transactions that Becciu is believed to have “personally authorized” and to have kept them hidden from Cardinal Pell’s attention.
As controversy and scandal grew around the property in late 2020, Pope Francis accepted Becciu’s resignation, when he also renounced his privileges as a cardinal and rescinded his post as Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Becciu’s lawyers also claimed in 2020 that Pope Francis himself had supported the London investment deal.
In July 2022, the Vatican sold the London building at the heart of the ongoing investigation, with a reported loss of $200 million, as the AP estimated the Vatican had spent around €350 million (around $359 million) in purchasing the building originally.
In late November 2022, the Vatican’s court also heard audio of a recorded telephone call between Becciu and Francis. An unnamed individual in a room with Becciu, understood to be his niece, had secretly recorded the call in the summer of 2021.
In the recorded call, Becciu asked Francis to confirm authorization of payments for the ransom of a kidnapped nun in Africa in the amount of 350,000 euros to the British firm, Inkerman Group — which was helping secure the ransom — and 500,000 euros as the ransom. Becciu had hired “security adviser” Cecilia Marogna as a liaison between the Vatican and the Inkerman Group, transferring the ransom money to Marogna as the intermediary.
However, Marogna, who joins Becciu on trial for embezzlement, used nearly half the money to buy luxury goods and was consequently arrested by Italian financial police after the Vatican issued an international arrest warrant through Interpol.
Didi argued that Marogna should receive four years and eight months in prison for “embezzlement,” along with a permanent ban on public office and a €10,329 fine.
In addition to protesting his innocence, Becciu has also claimed the support of Pope Francis throughout the proceedings. Such a claim was given further credence when Francis received Becciu in a private meeting last December. According to Becciu, Francis renewed his support for the cardinal. “He encouraged me renewing an invitation to me to continue to take part in cardinals’ celebrations,” Becciu said.
Becciu was publicly rehabilitated by Pope Francis at the August Consistory of Cardinals and has enjoyed a more public role in the Vatican’s more public activities in recent months, notably being among the concelebrants for the funeral of Cardinal George Pell – the Australian prelate whose financial reforms faced strong opposition from Becciu.