The Vatican made a sad history on Saturday following a shocking decision that is the first of its kind.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the Vatican criminal court successfully prosecuted Cardinal Angelo Becciu and sentenced him to five years in prison. Becciu, 75, was charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy and witness tampering in July 2021.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the most senior Catholic Church official ever to stand trial before a Vatican criminal court, was convicted of embezzlement and fraud and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail https://t.co/aqtdlh2uLX pic.twitter.com/rkZTLOZRa7
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 16, 2023
Becciu’s trial began when he bought a London investment property worth almost $382 million. According to reports on CBS News, the 75-year-old used the London investment property to develop a former Harrods warehouse into luxury apartments.
Prosecutors accused Becciu and his accomplice, including brokers, of cheating the Holy See out of tens of millions of dollars and extorting the Vatican government for 15 million euros to control the investment property. Prosecutors said Becciu sent over $125,000 from the Vatican government’s fund to a Sardinian charity operated by his brother.
The Vatican court recently sentenced Cardinal Angelo Becciu to five and a half years in prison for financial crimes, including embezzlement, abuse of office, and fraud. This marks a significant event in the history of the Catholic Church, as it's the first time a cardinal has… pic.twitter.com/c0crEv1Crg
— TheRealBiffBifford 🇺🇸 (@TBifford) December 17, 2023
Prosecutors reportedly sought a prison term of up to 13 years for the cardinal and damages in an amount in excess of $400, 000. However, the Vatican court only found Becciu guilty on several counts of embezzlement. The cardinal, who was the pope’s former chief of staff, was absolved of other charges.
Becciu’s trial lasted for more than two years with the Vatican court sitting for 86 sessions. At the end of the trial on Saturday, Vatican’s court president Giuseppe Pignatone read aloud the 75-year-old’s verdict which included a fine of over $8,500. The cardinal was also permanently disqualified from holding public office.
Becciu’s accomplices include former Vatican employee Fabrizio Tirabassi who was convicted of extortion and money laundering and Vatican financial consultant Enrico Crasso, who was found guilty on several charges.
Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian businessman responsible for brokering the last stages of the investment property, was found guilty of extortion and received a six-year jail sentence. Raffaele Mincione, the owner of the London property was handed five years and six months jail sentence after the Vatican court found him guilty of embezzlement and money laundering.
The Vatican court also ordered the confiscation of the equivalent of more than $180 million, with all defendants asked to pay a combined damages of more than $200 million.
Fabio Viglione, Becciu’s attorney, said they would appeal the ruling.