Against the background of Pope Francis’ financial cleanup, the Vatican began the trial of Cardinal Angelo Besio. The former chief of staff of the Vatican State Secretariat is on trial for misuse of church funds in a multi-million dollar case.
Cardinal Angelo Piccio, 73, a former confidant of Pope Francis, has to appear in court for his role in a multi-million dollar scandal. The Pope fired Treasury custodian Becciu in September last year when it became clear he had used €350m of church money for a controversial property deal in 2014. The money went to buy the former Harrods department store in London. It will be converted into luxury apartments. But the deal fell through and the Vatican ended up losing 176 million euros. Five Vatican officials were subsequently dismissed, including the cardinal.
The investigation into the case began about two years ago, when it was leaked that the Vatican State Secretariat had invested millions in the real estate project. It turns out that these were largely from the donations of believers to the Holy See, which is allowed to do “good works” with them. It was Becciu who gave his approval for the investment. He is also said to have transferred some of them to the companies of his brothers in their hometown of Sardinia. The cardinal is now on trial for corruption and misuse of church funds. Besides him, nine others are on trial. As well as Swiss lawyer Rene Bruhlhardt, former head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, the Vatican’s financial watchdog. Brullhart’s former deputy, private secretary to Pique, and a former investment director at the Vatican are also charged with fraud, corruption, fraud, money laundering and abuse of office.
Never before has a cardinal been prosecuted in such a position in the Vatican for financial crimes. The case is part of Pope Francis’ financial purge of the scandal-plagued city-state, a campaign he has launched since taking office in 2013. In April of this year, the pope also ruled that cardinals and bishops should be tried by a layperson. Judges, rather than cardinals. The Vatican promises to be more transparent about finances from now on. Details of the property, including more than 4,000 in Italy and 1,120 in other European cities, were published last week as a demonstration. Francis wants to restore the economic credibility of the Holy See at any cost.