Cardinal Angelo Becciu | Vatican News

    Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, on Trial

    This letter is a continuation of the letter the other day, Letter #173 entitled “Old Mazda” (link).

    In that letter, I noted that Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, the Vatican cardinal who has been charged in the Vatican “trial of the century” with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars (and perhaps more), drives a 22-year-old 2001 Mazda Demio worth, arguably, only $1,000 dollars, through the streets of Rome.


    The trial is near an end…

    So here is the situation:

    We are in the final days of the more than two-year-and-four-month-old Vatican “trial of the century” (the trial started on July 27 of 2021, more than 28 months ago). But the investigation which led to the trial started in mid-2018, more than five years ago.

    In this trial, for the first time in 500 years(!), a cardinal of the Church — Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75 — is being put on trial, and, for the first time, not before judges who are also cardinals, but before lay officials.

    The final verdict, guilty or innocent, is expected on December 14, 15, or 16, so, by the last days of next week.

    So, we are eight or 10 days from the end of the trial.

    Just around the corner, for a trial that has lasted almost two and a half years.


    The Many Mysteries of the “Trial of the Century”

    And yet, even as the trial heads to its conclusion, there are many mysteries that remain — mysteries about the charges, about the witnesses, about the testimony given, about where the money went, about who is to blame for the losses, and… about why this trial is being held at all…

    So I will now make an effort to try to shed, perhaps, some light on this trial, and its many mysteries.

    I think by the time you will have read these upcoming letters, you will agree that this story has all the elements of a crime thriller, with many twists and turns, a bit like the film Oceans Eleven (link), a crime thriller featuring an ensemble cast, fake money, fake videotapes, and famous actors including George ClooneyMatt DamonAndy GarcíaBrad PittJulia RobertsCasey AffleckScott CaanElliott GouldBernie Mac, and Carl Reiner

    Perhaps the brilliant and mercurial Vatican financial genius, now in disgrace — but not charged with any crime, because he has become the key witness of the Vatican prosecutor against the accused, especially against his former boss, Cardinal Becciu — Monsignor Alberto Perlasca (who signed some of the checks), could be played by Matt Damon, and perhaps then Cardinal Becciu (who for many years was the trusted right-hand man of Pope Francis) could be played by… George Clooney?


    A preliminary confession…

    I must make a preliminary confession: I have not closely followed this trial for all of the almost three years since it started… I have only begun to focus my attention on it in recent months.

    So, I am less knowledgeable about the details of this trial than some other journalists and observers, who have followed the matter for years. Therefore, I will (inevitably) miss some points and will perhaps make some mistakes (hopefully not too many)…

    For example, I greatly admire the knowledge of these four Italian “Vaticanisti” (Vatican experts — and the list could be longer):

    Andrea Gagliarducci (link) who writes for Catholic News Agency and has attended about 70 of the 82 trial sessions (more than 80%); he is the journalist the other journalists, who often do not attend the trial, listen to when he gives a briefing in the press office on what has happened at the trial at the end of each session;

    — Barbara Castelli, who writes for the official Vatican News website (link), and who has been present at the last few sessions of the trial, taking copious notes;

    Fausto Gasparroni of the Italian news agency ANSA (link); he too has been attending the trial daily, and he too is one of the “briefers,” with Gagliarducci, for the rest of the press corps, after each session of the trial;

    Maria Antonietta Calabrò, famous for her book on the 1978 kidnapping and execution of Italy’s prime minister (and close friend of Pope Paul VI) Aldo Moro. She has written for 30 years for Corriere della Sera, and, more recently for the Huffington Post (link)

    So, by drawing on the reports of these other journalists, then adding to what they say based on my own reading of the testimony in this case, I hope to make a contribution.

    In recent days, I have been present at the trial and have seen these four Italian journalists takes copious notes while observing the trial, as the various lawyers for the defense have stood, hour upon hour, before the panel of three Vatican judges, giving their summary statements, arguing for the innocence, for the acquittal, of their clients.

    These lawyers have argued passionately — occasionally raising their voices to the level of shouting(!) — that their clients are completely innocent, that no corruption, or theft, or embezzlement occurred.

    The defense lawyers have acknowledged that “mistakes” may have been made in choosing various investments (including in the Palace on Sloane Avenue in London), but they have argued that the result of these mistakes (losing money) happens in many investments, and does not in itself constitute a crime, just reveals bad judgement, or bad luck…

    So which is it: corruption? Or simple bad judgment in investments?

    That is a key question in this case.

    If it is corruption, the defendants are guilty.    

    If it is bad judgement (at least, in most cases, if the bad judgment is not so bad that it becomes criminal negligence), they are… innocent.


    Other chroniclers and analysts of this trial…

    I also benefit from the work of a number of others who have followed this trial for years now, including:

    John Allen, the founder and chief writer of Crux (link);

    Ed Condon, the founder and one of the chief writers of The Pillar (link — Condon’s profile may be seen if you scroll down);

    Phil Pullella, long-time Vaticanist (40 years and 2 months) of one of the leading global news agencies, Reuters (link)

    Nicole Winfield, long-time Vaticanist of another leading global news agency, Associated Press (AP) (link).

    And many others.

    However, I might add:

    When I came to Rome on May 19, 1984 — 40 years ago in five months — I met and came to know Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. His dissertation (Habilitationsschrift) on The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure was an inspiration for my own dissertation. He later became Pope Benedict XVI. We spoke on several occasions about Vatican government and finances. This helped shape the way I formulated questions about these matters.

    I also met and came to know, in the mid-1980s, Archbishop Paul Casimir Marcinkus (January 15, 1922-February 20, 2006; he died at the age of 84). Marcinkus was the controversial President of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) — the “Vatican bank.” Marcinkus took pains to explain to me his version of the story of the Banco Ambrosiano-Vatican Bank scandal… the greatest financial scandal in Vatican history. This also helped to shape my understanding of how to approach the question of Vatican finances.

    Then, in the past 20 years, I came to know the Australian Cardinal George Pell (June 8, 1941-January 10, 2023; he died at the age of 81; link). He was charged by Pope Francis to try to bring transparency to the Vatican’s finances during the past decade. He died 11 months ago. His work, also, became important to me in assessing the Vatican’s finances.

    Moreover, I have spoken at some length about Vatican finances and this case with other leading Church officials and Vatican observers, who have been helpful in allowing me to see this trial as part of a larger question, a larger battle.    

    So let’s begin with where we are today, and then work back, and then forward again…

    The trial is about to end. What are the arguments of the defense lawyers for one of the two main defendants, Swiss financier Raffaele Mincione… arguments made just in the last few days in Rome?  

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    Here is a report about the defense arguments made on December 4, when the lawyers for Raffaele Mincione spoke.

    Mincione was present in the courtroom in Vatican City, along with his wife, Maddalena, who sat in the guest section where journalists sit.


    Vatican trial, Mincione’s lawyers: “The truth has been twisted to attempt to prove an objective”

    The financier’s defense was the protagonist of the 81st hearing of the trial on the events in London. (…) The Promoter of Justice’s Office (the Vatican prosecutor’s office) has requested 11 years and 5 months of imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and a fine of 15,450 euros

    By Barbara Castelli – Vatican News

    December 4, 2023

    “I think I have provided important elements of evaluation. Here [i.e., during the 2+ years of trial, but also during the 2 years of investigation prior to the trial] there was an outrage against the truth, about the person [that is, about Raffaele Mincione], against his professional reputation, against the alleged predatory nature of Falcon Oil’s due diligence, against the role of Credit Suisse: there is not an ounce of truth in these decisive chapters of the story, (or) on the alleged lack of awareness of the Secretariat of State, on the concealment of decisive negotiating information. There is nothing true.”

    Thus (spoke) the lawyer Giandomenico Caiazza, one of the defense lawyers of Raffaele Mincione, accused of aggravated fraud, embezzlement and aggravated embezzlement, aggravated abuse of office, aggravated embezzlement, self-laundering and aggravated corruption.

    In the multipurpose hall of the Vatican Museums, among the accused, in addition to the financier, were Enrico Crasso and Fabrizio Tirabassi.

    During the 81st hearing of the trial on the financial investments of the Secretariat of State in London, the lawyer criticized the scheme with which, according to him, the investigations were conducted.

    “There is (first) a belief,” he said, thanking, however, the Board for giving everyone the opportunity to speak, “and (then) the material acquired is aimed at confirming the prejudice.”

    “The truth of the facts,” he added, “the documentary evidence, has been distorted to support one’s own beliefs [i.e., the beliefs of the prosecutors that the Vatican had been deceived]…”

    In over two hours of speech, the lawyer Giandomenico Caiazza… wanted above all to point the finger at the “investigative gaps that have characterized the accusatory system since its inception.”

    “The truth – he declared – has been bent to one objective: the promoter of Justice has built a sort of parallel reality, a place where the facts can be represented in a way that is exclusively functional to the objectives of the prosecution.”

    [My note: On a large screen to the side of the courtroom, the defense projected pictures of a 51-page contract from 2014 regarding the purchase of the London property in question The defense argued that the document had been deposited with the court, but that during the trial only the first 3 pages of the document had been cited by the prosecution. The defense argued that the 48 remaining pages, which the defense claimed had been “kept hidden” throughout the trial, contained contractual clauses agreed upon by both parties, proving (the defense maintained) that the Vatican had not been deceived or tricked into signing the contract. In other words, the defense claimed that the Vatican prosecution had intentionally avoided presenting evidence which contradicted its thesis that Raffaele Mincione had committed fraud by deceiving the Vatican about the nature of the original contract regarding the London property purchase. —RM]

    Tomorrow… going back in time to the origins of this trial…

    Below, other articles which supply background about this case… —RM


    P.S. Special Note! Any donation in support of this letter would be appreciated: here.

    The fact that it took 37 hearings before even beginning the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness, by the way, speaks volumes about the glacial pace at which the process is unfolding.” —John Allen (story in full below), writing one year ago, in late 2022, explaining that the trial had unfolded with glacial slowness…

    Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’ sets new standards for the surreal (link)

    By John Allen

    November 25, 2022

    ROME – Just when you think that the Vatican’s “trial of the century” against a cardinal and nine other defendants for various alleged financial crimes can’t get any more surreal, two developments pop out of the woodwork to prove you wrong.

    A hearing Thursday produced both a previously unknown, and unauthorized, recording of a phone call with Pope Francis, as well as testimony from the prosecution’s star witness, who essentially blamed everyone in the system – both above him and below him, but not himself – for what went wrong.

    Let’s begin with the phone call.

    The recording apparently was made by a relative of Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, one of the defendants in the trial, who’s facing charges related to transfers of Vatican money to a Catholic charity in his native Sardinia and also his financial dealings with a self-described lay security consultant named Cecilia Marogna.

    Although reporters and other members of the public were escorted out of the hearing room Thursday before the recording of the conversation was played, the news agency AdnKronos provided a transcript. It occurred in late July 2021, just three days before the trial opened and not long after the pope’s colon surgery, and the recording was apparently preserved on a cell phone belonging to one of Becciu’s nephews.

    In the call, Becciu clearly wanted Pope Francis to acknowledge that he had authorized payments through Marogna to a British firm to secure the release of a Colombian nun who had been kidnapped by Islamic militants in Mali in 2017. The firm was paid roughly $350,000 for its expenses, and then $500,000 was paid in ransom.

    The nun, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, was eventually released and met Pope Francis in the Vatican afterwards.

    Asked if he remembered being briefed on the transactions, Francis appeared to confirm that he had been: “I remember that, vaguely, but I remember, yes, I had it [the information], yes.”

    Becciu then says he can’t call the pope as a witness, but asks him for a written statement that he had authorized the expenses. Francis suggests that Becciu put something on paper and send it to him, promising to look it over.

    Prosecutors in the Vatican trial introduced the recording after having obtained it from Italian financial police, who are conducting their own investigation of a charity in Sardinia linked to Becciu. Clearly the prosecution hoped it would put Becciu in a bad light for having taped the pontiff surreptitiously, though defense attorneys pounced on it to argue that it illustrates why the pope needs to be questioned to establish what he knew and what he approved.

    From the beginning, defense lawyers have argued that the people charged in the trial didn’t do anything that wasn’t fully approved by their superiors – including the “substitute,” meaning the number two official in the Secretariate of State, at the beginning Becciu and now Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra; the Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin; and Pope Francis himself.

    Prosecutors don’t dispute that authorization occurred, but insist it was granted under false pretenses because, they claim, the defendants misrepresented the nature of the transactions involved.

    As for the star witness, we’re talking about Italian Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, originally from the Diocese of Como in northern Italy, who for years headed an office within the Secretariat of State which administered funds reserved to the Secretariat, including the income of the annual “Peter’s Pence” collection to support the activities of the pope.

    As the investigation of the London deal began, Perlasca seemed to loom as an obvious target for criminal charges, since he was involved at every stage of the transaction. Perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, Perlasca repositioned himself as a whistle-blower and volunteered to give damaging testimony on former colleagues and business associates who were also part of London negotiations.

    On Thursday, Perlasca took the witness stand for the first time in the Vatican trial. (The fact that it took 37 hearings before even beginning the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness, by the way, speaks volumes about the glacial pace at which the process is unfolding.)

    In effect, Perlasca suggested that responsibility for the London deal resides with pretty much everyone else involved, but not him.

    At the level of detail, he said, decisions about the transaction were made by his lay assistant, Fabrizio Tirabassi, who’s a defendant in the trial. At the big-picture level, Perlasca said, the deal was authorized by Becciu and later by Peña Parra, and it wasn’t his place to question their decisions.

    “We have a saying – when things aren’t said to you, it means you don’t need to know, so I never asked,” Perlasca told the court.

    So, to sum up: More than a year into this prosecution, we now have the star defendant on tape with Pope Francis, who appears to acknowledge that he personally approved at least one set of transactions at issue in the trial – and, we have the star witness implying that basically everyone else in the situation bears responsibility for what went wrong, but not him.

    It’s impossible to know right now what all this means for the fate of the prosecution, given that we haven’t even reached the defense stage of the trial.

    What it does seem to suggest, however, is staying tuned, since there may be yet more rabbits to emerge out of various ecclesiastical hats.

    [End, John Allen story from a year ago…]

    And here is an even earlier piece, by Gagliarducci, which also helps to “set the scene” for what has happened in this trial:

    Here’s what the Vatican finance trial has revealed about the London deal (link)

    By Andrea Gagliarducci

    June 8, 2022

    This week at the Vatican finance trial, it was the broker Raffaele Mincione’s turn to be questioned. The responses of the Italian businessman — the first person to manage the London building at the center of the intricate trial — shed more light on the disastrous deal.

    Mincione’s answers added to the information provided at previous hearings by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso, and the ex-Secretariat of State officials Fabrizio Tirabassi and Monsignor Mauro Carlino.

    The same testimonies confirmed the contents of a text submitted by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the current Sostituto (Substitute) for the Secretariat of State, who decided on the deal’s final steps.

    Mincione spoke before the court on June 6-7, with the support of 18 blue binders of documentation. There were almost 16 hours of total interrogation, introduced by Mincione’s spontaneous statements recalling his career in finance, which included a collaboration with the Institute for Works of Religion (the IOR or “Vatican bank”) in the 1990s.

    The genesis of the London deal

    Before going into the details of Mincione’s responses, it’s worth recalling the gestation of the London deal, as revealed during the trial so far. Of course, this offers only a partial picture, but it highlights the mechanisms — including psychological ones — behind the operation.

    It all began in 2012 when an investment in Falcon Oil, an oil extraction company in Angola, was proposed to the Secretariat of State via Becciu, then the dicastery’s second-ranking official. The proposal came from the entrepreneur Antonio Mosquito, a benefactor of the apostolic nunciature in Angola, where Becciu served for seven years.

    Becciu said he proposed the deal, but without applying pressure. Tirabassi, Crasso, and Mincione all confirmed this under questioning.

    Credit Suisse managed the Secretariat of State’s funds, and the Credit Suisse man in charge of them was Enrico Crasso. This is an important fact. The Secretariat of State did not manage them directly. It could, of course, approve or disapprove of business decisions. It wanted profits. In general, however, when one relies on a manager, everything is in their hands.

    Crasso was commissioned to study the deal, but he did not have the requisite expertise. So his Credit Suisse agency suggested that he seek advice from the London branch. Credit Suisse London recommended Raffaele Mincione.

    It was now 2013, the year Pope Francis was elected. While studying the project’s feasibility, for which 200 million euros (around $215 million) were requested, Mincione set up the Athena Fund, where the funds were paid. This was so that, once the decision was taken, the funds could be immediately available. Both Tirabassi and Mincione confirmed this.

    But the investment project in Angola slowly lost traction. Initially, Mosquito lowered its investment needs to 100 million euros (about $107 million), thus freeing up the other half of the fund for other investments. This is when the idea of investing in the infamous Sloane Avenue property arose.

    Mincione suggested at the hearings that talking about the “London building” was inappropriate. It was rather a “project” that involved an investment in the property.

    The former Harrods warehouses would have been converted into lofts. A floor would have raised the property, and then it would have been sold at a significant profit, considering that rents in that area of ​​London are very high.

    It was a large project, explained Mincione, because English law states that, when the intended use of an office building is changed, another office building must also be built to keep the tax burden unchanged.

    It was also a project that came with favorable conditions because all the tenants of the Sloane Avenue property terminated their leases, Mincione explained.

    By making all these assessments, the idea of ​​an investment in the building became feasible, using the part of the fund not earmarked for the Falcon Oil proposal.

    Pivoting from Angola to London

    In the end, the Falcon Oil operation came to nothing. Mincione himself made it known that there were no necessary guarantees. At the same time, as Tirabassi told the court, there were also moral doubts about investing in oil when Pope Francis was publishing the environmental encyclical Laudato si’.

    Yet it should be noted that Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the Vatican Secretariat of State administration, was said to have been “very determined” to move forward with the affair.

    Becciu, on the other hand, no longer appeared in the discussions. “I had faith in my collaborators. I had to have it,” he explained.

    There was, therefore, a total of 200 million euros left to invest. Mincione said that he was willing to return it to the Secretariat of State. He expressed this verbally to Crasso, who included him in a report sent to the Secretariat of State that was shown in court by Mincione’s defense.

    The Secretariat of State, however, decided to trust Mincione. He changed the destination of the Athena Fund, using it to take over the shares of the Sloane Avenue property, starting the operation.

    The Vatican entered into a so-called lock-up management contract, which lasted five years and could be extended by another two in the event of a particular disruption. The only way out of the contract would have been to pay penalties. This was still 2013.

    Credit Suisse approved the investment, but, Mincione said, the Secretariat of State proved to be “a particularly restless investor.” For “Secretariat of State,” read “Monsignor Alberto Perlasca,” the one who, according to the hearings so far, took all the decisions.

    Mincione said that he never started work on Sloane Avenue but had begun work on the other office building to be built as compensation for the change in use. There was no way to get the investment going, and then Brexit came, with its disruptive effects. In this situation, the extra two years on the contract should have been guaranteed. But the Secretariat of State was dissatisfied and decided to change management.

    Mincione said that as early as February 2018, he began to understand that the Secretariat of State was having second thoughts. He felt pressure to sell the shares of the property, and set out to satisfy his client. The possible purchase price was 350 million euros (around $375 million), considering the project, not the state of the building.

    Torzi enters the picture

    There was an offer of 350 million euros from Invest, a company belonging to Luciano Capaldo. Capaldo was at the time a partner of the broker Gianluigi Torzi, whom Mincione met at the end of 2017.

    Mincione recalled: “He had his office across the street. Sometimes I saw him in breaks, taking a breath of fresh air. Torzi has presented thousands of projects, some I have read, very few perhaps I have approved.”

    In the second half of 2018, Torzi was the man to whom the Secretariat of State turned to take over the shares in the Sloane Avenue building. Torzi said he would be able to convince Mincione to sell the shares and proposed new management in which the stakes were anchored to his Luxembourg-based company Gutt SA.

    On Nov. 20, 2018, there was a meeting in Mincione’s London offices. It was attended by Mincione, Torzi, Tirabassi, Crasso and the lawyer Manuele Intendente.

    Under questioning, Crasso complained about being involved in the matter, saying that “going to that meeting was the biggest mistake of my life.”

    Tirabassi said that he was in constant telephone contact with Monsignor Perlasca and that Perlasca himself told him that Torzi would be representing the Holy See’s interests. Everyone confirmed that the Vatican did not have a lawyer to represent it at the meeting.

    But what of Intendente’s role? Mincione said: “I thought he was the head of the Gendarmerie. He sat at the back, never speaking, with a slightly grim look that confirmed the idea that he was a policeman.”

    Mincione was very disappointed that control of the building was taken away from him. He believed that the contract should have come to an end. Disappointed, he left his lawyers with the task of developing the exit agreement. “I could ask for any price, refuse, but I let it go,” he said.

    Torzi assigned almost all the shares to the Secretariat of State, but kept 1,000 of them: the ones with the right to vote.

    Both Tirabassi and Crasso said they did not know about the nature of the 1,000 shares. Monsignor Perlasca insisted in interviews before he became the trial’s star witness that when he realized what had happened, he wanted to denounce it. But in his view, a complaint could have been counterproductive. There were contracts, and contracts had to be respected.

    Archbishop Peña Parra’s headache

    In mid-2018, Archbishop Peña Parra was appointed Sostituto and immediately faced a remarkably complex situation. He decided to take matters into his own hands. The most logical solution, in his opinion, was to acquire the property directly, ending contracts with intermediaries and thus allowing the Secretariat of State to invest directly.

    Meanwhile, Capaldo had become a consultant for the Secretariat of State. His defense claimed that he had cut off all contact with Torzi. Mincione said that, after making the first offer for the acquisition of the building by his company, Capaldo arrived with another offer of 350 million euros, representing a Sheikh Salah. Indeed, the Holy See took away the property management and made Mincione suspect that it had decided to resell it to Salah, and then to pocket the capital gain. But it would not be so.

    Peña Parra entered a world of mutual suspicion. Monsignor Carlino said during the trial that he had been placed under control by Giuseppe Milanese, a personal friend of Pope Francis, and that the pope was involved in mediation to persuade Torzi to leave the deal.

    Crasso said that he was asked to find, in the fund of the Secretariat of State, six million euros (around $6.4 million) to finance the sale of bonds of a cooperative run by Milanese.

    Carlino recalled that Peña Parra also put Gian Franco Mammì, director general of the IOR, under observation.

    The Secretariat of State asked the IOR for a loan to take over the mortgage on the London building and renegotiate it. The IOR at first said yes, with an official note. Then it suddenly changed course. Mammì made a report to the Vatican’s auditor general, who started an investigation.

    This was followed by searches at the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority, a summary procedure decided by the pope, and the trial that is presently taking place at the Vatican.

    Mincione has always stressed that his relationship was with Credit Suisse and not directly with the Holy See. “I don’t understand why I’m here and not Credit Suisse,” he said.

    At this point in the trial, the hearings have created more questions than answers. It must be remembered that the accused are questioned but they do not give a formal testimony, swearing an oath to tell the truth. They can therefore potentially lie to defend themselves. This needs to be borne in mind when considering their declarations.

    But there is a striking harmony in their accounts, albeit with various nuances. And so, we can begin to grasp the wider picture, even if some parts have yet to come into focus.

    [End Gagliarducci article]


    The Larger Picture?

    Now, here below is a Reuters article from October, 2020, which brings out an element which seems important with regard to this trial: that the Vatican in recent years did wish to appear “transparent” before the global financial authorities in its economic affairs — even to the point of having a “pro-transparency trial” against alleged financial malfeasance — in order to comply with international norms to combat “money laundering” and “the financing of terrorism.” (link)

    Without such a trial, the Vatican might have been considered remiss in “not combatting” money laundering and financing terrorism, which would have led to further problems for the Vatican internationally, globally…

    In other words, this trial may have been “needed” for other reasons than for prosecuting these particular alleged crimes.

    If this hypothesis were true, what would that mean? What would it mean concerning 2+ years of a trial, pursued at enormous expense (many millions in legal fees alone), and causing enormous harm to the Vatican’s global image due to the immense publicity about “Vatican corruption,” and also causing enormous suffering to the individuals (and their families) accused of crimes which may — this is an hypothesis — have been important to Vatican officials only as… a pretext to carry out a “show trial” in order to prove to global regulatory authorities… progress in transparency? —RM


    Moneyval has given the Vatican increasingly positive evaluations since its first inspection eight years ago but has lamented the slowness of its judicial arm in carrying out investigations and bringing suspects to trial.” —Reuters, in an article from October 8, 2020 (text below)

    In midst of cardinal scandal, Pope seeks to reassure money inspectors (link)

    Reuters, October 8, 2020

    Pope Francis sought to assure external inspectors of the Vatican’s financial operations on Thursday [October 8, 2020] that he was pushing ahead with reforms, as the Holy See reeled from a scandal in which he fired a powerful cardinal.

    In an address to Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s financial monitoring arm, Francis listed recent actions he had taken to make Vatican finances more transparent.

    He appeared to refer to the Vatican’s latest financial scandals when he quoted the gospel story of Jesus driving the merchants from the temple and telling them “You cannot serve both God and money”.

    Last month, the pope fired Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, accusing him of embezzlement and nepotism.

    Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.

    Moneyval is making one of its periodic inspections to check the Vatican is complying with international norms to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism.

    “The measures that you are evaluating are meant to promote ‘clean finance’, in which the ‘merchants’ are prevented from speculating in that sacred ‘temple’,” Francis said.

    Italian media have this week run interviews with a woman who says she received 500,000 euros from Becciu to run a “parallel diplomacy” to help missionaries in conflict areas.

    Cecilia Marogna’s purported work for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, where Becciu held the number two position until 2018, was not previously known.

    In an emailed response to Reuters on Wednesday, Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said the cardinal knew Marogna but that his dealings with her had been “exclusively about institutional matters”.

    He did not mention her comments about the funds, which Marogna said went through a company she started in Slovenia.

    Marogna, 39, who like Becciu is from Sardinia, did not reply to a phone message from Reuters.

    Addressing the inspectors, Francis pointed to his approval in June of sweeping new rules for procurement and spending meant to cut costs, ensure transparent competition and reduce the risk of corruption in awarding contracts.

    Moneyval has given the Vatican increasingly positive evaluations since its first inspection eight years ago but has lamented the slowness of its judicial arm in carrying out investigations and bringing suspects to trial [Note: emphasis added. —RM]

    In his email, Becciu’s lawyer also denied Italian media reports that his client had sent money to Australia to help enemies of Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican economy minister who was cleared this year of sexual abuse charges in Australia after spending 13 months in prison.

    Pell had accused Becciu of blocking Vatican financial reforms and after Becciu was fired, Pell said the pope “is to be thanked and congratulated.”

    [End, Reuters article of October 8, 2020]

    (to be continued)

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