As the Vatican finances trial begins today, here’s what you need to know | Catholic National Register
VATICAN CITY – On Tuesday, the Vatican court holds the first hearing in a trial against 10 people accused of committing financial crimes against the Holy See.
The Vatican financial lawsuit is unprecedented in modern times. Among the defendants is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the first cardinal to stand trial in Vatican City State Court since Pope Francis changed the rules to allow it in April.
The first hearing, on July 27, will be the arraignment, when prosecutors inform the defendants of the criminal charges against them and the defendants enter their pleas of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
The court also set a second court date for July 28, which may or may not take place before the court adjourns for the summer recess.
Who is involved in the lawsuit, and what is the likely outcome?
The financial trial will take place in a multipurpose room inside the Vatican Museums recently renovated to allow more space for hearings.
The outcome of the trial will be decided by the Vatican City State Court of First Instance, made up of three judges.
The lay judges of the Vatican, who have each been appointed by the Pope, are headed by the president of the tribunal Giuseppe Pignatone, a retired Italian prosecutor.
The chief prosecutors of the investigation, called Promoters of Justice, are the Italian lawyers Alexander Diddi and Roberto Zannotti.
Prosecutors will represent the interests of the Holy See and those the tribunal identified as the parties injured by the alleged crimes: the Secretariat of State and the IOR (commonly referred to as the “Vatican Bank”).
In the lawsuit, the Vatican will try to prosecute Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former number two of the Secretary of State, for embezzlement and abuse of office linked to several scandals surrounding his time in the powerful curia.
The main scandal is the purchase by the secretariat, from 2014 to 2018, of an investment property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. The deal, investigators say, turned out to be concocted by bad actors who took advantage of Vatican money to fund their own debts from earlier deals gone awry.
Prosecutors indicted Italian businessmen Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi, who negotiated and negotiated the purchase of the property by the Secretary of State with the assistance of the longtime Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso.
Mincione was charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of power, embezzlement and money laundering, and Torzi with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and money laundering.
Nicola Squillace, a lawyer who worked with Torzi, faces the same charges as him, minus the extortion.
Crasso, who is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund in which the Holy See is the main investor, faces charges of corruption, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, personal money laundering, fraud, abuse of power, falsification of a public document, and falsification of a private document.
The Vatican has also accused three companies owned by Crasso of fraud.
Additionally, prosecutors claimed two State Secretariat officials were involved in the fraud. Fabrice Tirabassi, who oversaw the investments, has been accused of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of power. Mgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked with him, was charged with extortion and abuse of power.
René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, respectively the former president and the former director of internal financial supervision of the Vatican, have been charged with abuse of power. Di Ruzza is also accused of embezzlement and breach of confidentiality.
Another accused at trial is Cecilia Marogna, a self-proclaimed security consultant, who has been charged with embezzlement following an investigation into reports that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Secretariat in connection with Becciu, and that she spent money for charity in luxury goods and vacations.
Vatican prosecutors will argue against the defendants on the basis of documents, financial records and testimony.
Based on information in a 488-page indictment reviewed by CNA, other people who may be called to the witness stand during the trial include Luciano Capaldo, manager of the London building at 60 Sloane Avenue, and Manuele Intendente, who was reportedly present at the meetings leading up to Torzi’s brokering of the final stage of the London deal in 2018.
A Secretary of State official who has also been investigated for his involvement in the London investment, but who has not been charged in this lawsuit, is Mgr. Alberto Perlasca. Prosecutors have identified Mgr. Perlasca’s testimony, provided during several interviews, is important in reconstructing “certain central moments” of the case.
Investigators also had access to emails and texts related to the charges.
None of the defendants admitted wrongdoing, while Brülhart, Di Ruzza and Cardinal Becciu all said they were eager to defend their innocence in court.
While most of the defendants refused to be interviewed before trial, some gave some indication of what their defense might include.
One of them is Cecilia Marogna, who said she interacted with Italian Secret Service agents and was paid by Cardinal Becciu to create files of compromising information on Vatican personnel. Cardinal Becciu has denied any wrongdoing.
Besides two lawyers, Marogna’s defense team also includes a former Italian intelligence agent, Riccardo sindoca, who works as a legal consultant.
Through Sindoca, Marogna told media last month that her “relationship of trust” with Cardinal Becciu “remains unchanged”. She also tried to cast doubt on allegations that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, did not know what she was doing in the Secretariat.
According to some Italian media, Marogna plans to put Cardinal Parolin on the witness stand, as well as a figure who worked for the secret services of the Italian army, now missing, SISMI.
Brülhart is said to have had an advisory contract with the Secretariat of State at the same time as he was chairman of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, which is responsible for informing the judiciary of possible financial misconduct. His lawyer said the arrangement was legitimate and approved by officials at the Secretary of State.
Cardinal Becciu’s lawyer told the Catholic website The pillar this month that the “so-called consultation agreement” was “properly authorized and supervised by His Eminence Cardinal Parolin, without any involvement of His Eminence Cardinal Becciu”, indicating a possible direction of the defense of Cardinal Becciu.
We do not yet know how the Vatican judges will rule and what sentences they will pronounce. The ability to secure convictions will depend on the competence of prosecutors, the quality of the investigation and the strength of the evidence.
If found guilty, the accused will have the opportunity to appeal.
In the indictment, prosecutors said that the former head of the secretariat, Fabrizio Tirabassi, if found guilty of embezzlement, could face three to five years in prison, a lifelong ban from practicing law. civil service and a fine of at least 5,000 euros (approximately $ 5,900.)
Cardinal Parolin told French media The cross this month he believes the trial will be the time for “judicial truth.”
He also has noted earlier this month, he hoped the trial would be “brief.” But the court’s record on the cases tried does not support this result.
In January, Angelo Caloia, former president of the IOR, was sentenced to eight years and 11 months in prison for money laundering and aggravated embezzlement. He was too order to pay a fine of 12,500 euros (approximately $ 14,700).
The conclusion of the trial, which began in 2018, marked the first time the Vatican has handed down a prison sentence for financial crimes.
The conviction fell between an on-site inspection of the Vatican by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, and the publication of its report on the Vatican’s compliance with international financial standards.
The monitoring group Evaluation was that the sanctions in two Vatican self-laundering convictions in 2018 and 2019 were “neither proportionate nor dissuasive.”
Moneyval also expressed doubts about the ability of the Vatican tribunal to resolve complex financial cases in a timely manner.