Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a once powerful Vatican prelate, was convicted on Saturday of embezzlement and abuse of office in a financial scandal and sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison. The verdict capped off a two-year trial exposing financial malfeasance in the heart of the Catholic Church.
Key Facts About the Trial & Sentence
- Becciu was tried alongside 9 others on charges related to embezzling charity funds to invest in a problematic London real estate deal
- Vatican prosecutors had accused the 10 defendants of a host of financial crimes and sought significantly longer sentences, up to 12 years in some cases
- Becciu received one of the longest sentences among the group, behind only Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi, who got 6 years
- In total, the 10 defendants were found guilty on several counts and given combined sentences of over 35 years
- Becciu plans to appeal, and the multi-year legal battle may not be over
|Cardinal Angelo Becciu
|Embezzlement, abuse of office
|5 years, 6 months
|Embezzlement, money laundering, fraud
|1 year, 8 months
Background on Becciu & the Financial Scandal
Cardinal Becciu had been a powerful figure in the Vatican for years before the financial troubles surfaced. As the former No. 2 in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, he controlled the Holy See’s assets and investments.
The scandal centers around Becciu’s involvement in a luxury London property development purchased by the secretariat. Hundreds of millions worth of charity donations were diverted into the project, but it ultimately lost money instead of generating returns for the intended charitable causes.
Prosecutors say Becciu funneled money to associates and family members, including transferring over $1 million in Vatican funds to an Italian security consultant linked romantically to him, Cecilia Marogna. She was convicted of embezzlement in the scheme.
The Vatican bought the London building to diversify its portfolio, but Becciu and others broke financial protocols repeatedly. Additional figures were indicted for collusion and extortion related to the deal.
Becciu Stripped of Rights & Demoted Prior to Trial
In a remarkable move in 2020, Pope Francis stripped Becciu of rights held only by cardinals. The pope also removed him from heading of the saint-making office, one of the most powerful in the Catholic Church.
It marked a stunning fall for Becciu, who had previously enjoyed a rapid rise in power after a long career as a papal diplomat. The pope made clear Becciu would face trial like a common citizen without special privileges.
The demotion signaled Francis’ impatience with financial mismanagement and corruption revelations that have dogged the papacy in recent years. As a cardinal, Becciu sat on powerful councils that set the Vatican’s policies and direction.
What Comes Next: Appeal & Ongoing Investigations
While a monumental verdict has been reached, the Becciu case and ongoing attempts to reform the Vatican’s finances are likely far from over.
Becciu’s lawyer immediately announced plans to appeal the conviction. Appeals in the Vatican justice system can drag on for years before resolution.
Meanwhile, Vatican prosecutors are conducting additional investigations related to the London real estate venture. More charges could still emerge against others.
Pope Francis initiated financial reforms in response to past blunders, but the Becciu trial exposed how entrenched certain questionable practices had become. The pope may need to take more stringent actions in light of the scandal.
With Becciu now made an example of, all eyes will be on Francis’ next moves to clean up the Holy See’s finances. While the courtroom saga with Becciu may pause during the appeal, efforts to prevent further insider dealings and corruption are just ramping up in the Vatican hierarchy.
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