By AMLi Correspondents
A Vatican judge has ordered 10 people, including an Italian cardinal, to stand trial for alleged financial crimes including money laundering, fraud, extortion, embezzlement and abuse of office.
Those indicted include Cardinal Angelo Becciu (pictured on right with Pope Francis), as well as the former heads of the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) and two Italian brokers involved in the Vatican’s purchase of a building in a luxury area of London.
Cardinal Becciu, who Pope Francis fired last year and who has always maintained his innocence during a two-year investigation, is the highest ranking Vatican-based church official to be indicted for alleged financial crimes.
As per church law, the pope personally approved the judge’s decision to investigate and indict Cardinal Becciu.
The charges against him include embezzlement and abuse of office. An Italian woman who worked for Cardinal Becciu was charged with embezzlement.
Italian brokers Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione were indicted on charges of embezzlement, fraud and money laundering.
Mr Torzi, for whom Italian magistrates issued an arrest warrant in April, was also charged with extortion. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Four companies associated with individual defendants, two in Switzerland, one in the US and one in Slovenia, were also indicted.
Among the accused is former director of the Holy See’s financial regulator Rene Brulhart.
Vatican News reports that a long and complex investigation carried out by Promoter of Justice Gian Piero Milano, Adjunct Alessandro Diddi and by clerk Gianluca Perrone was the result of an inquiry undertaken by the Vatican Gendarmeria led by Commander Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti.
The probe led to the examination of an enormous number of documents, electronic equipment sequestered from the suspects, as well as the comparison of witness testimony. The president of Vatican City State’s Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, has ordered the subpoena of ten people after receiving the request presented by the Office of the Promoter of Justice, says the Holy See Press Office’s statement.
The first phase of the investigation ends with this summons. Now the documentation gathered will be examined by the Tribunal during the public debate involving both the prosecution and the defence. The first hearing is scheduled for 27 July.
The following persons will be going to trial:
- René Brülhart (former president of AIF [the Vatican’s Supervisory and Financial Information Authority or FIU ]), who is charged with the crime of abuse of office;
- Mgr Mauro Carlino (former secretary of the Substitute of the Secretariat of State), who is charged with extortion and abuse of office;
- Enrico Crasso (financial broker who managed investments for the Secretariat of State for decades) is charged with the crimes of embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering and self-laundering, fraud, abuse of office, materially falsifying public documents and falsifying internal agreements;
- Tommaso Di Ruzza (former director of AIF) is being charged with embezzlement and violating confidentiality;
- Cecilia Marogna (a woman who received considerable sums from the Secretariat of State for intelligence services) is being charged with extortion;
- Raffaele Mincione (financial broker who allegedly made the Secretariat of State underwrite large shares of the fund that owned the London property at 60 Sloan Avenue, and who then used that money for his own speculative investments) is being charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, appropriation and money laundering;
- Nicola Squillace (a lawyer involved in the negotiations) is being charged with fraud, appropriation, money laundering and self-laundering;
- Fabrizio Tirabassi (employed as a notetaker in the Administrative Office of the Secretariat of State, who allegedly played a leading role in the matter) is charged with corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of office;
- Gianluigi Torzi (the broker called to help the Holy See get out of the fund owned by Mincione, and who succeeded in liquidating a total of 15 million so the property could return to its legitimate owners) is being charged with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, appropriation, money laundering and self-laundering.
A subpoena was also filed against the following companies: HP Finance LLC, managed by Enrico Crasso, on fraud charges; Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, DOO, managed by Cecilia Marogna, on embezzlement charges; Prestige Family Office SA, managed by Enrico Crasso, on fraud charges; Sogenel Capital Investment, managed by Enrico Crasso, on fraud charges. Some of these were committed complicity with others.
Some elements also emerged against Cardinal Angelo Becciu. In his case, charges include embezzlement, abuse of office in complicity with others as well, and subornation.
In a statement released by his lawyers, the Cardinal said he is the “victim of an organized plot hatched” against him to his detriment, which has exposed him “to an unparalleled attacks in the media”. Thanks solely to faith, he says, is he able “to find the strength to fight this battle for truth.” Cardinal Becciu concludes, “Finally the time for clarification is coming, and the Court will be able to see the absolute falsity of the accusations.”
In the meantime, the Secretariat of State has decided to participate as a civil party in the trial being represented by lawyer Paola Severino.
The trial is due to start on 27 July in the Vatican.