Top cardinal awaits fate as historic Vatican fraud trial ends

Top cardinal awaits fate as historic Vatican fraud trial ends
Top cardinal awaits fate as historic Vatican fraud trial ends

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Cardinal Angelo Becciu (right) became the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to face a Vatican court when proceedings opened in July 2021. — AFP pic

VATICAN CITY, Dec 13 — A landmark Vatican fraud trial involving a top Italian cardinal and a murky London property deal wrapped up yesterday after more than two years, with a verdict expected Saturday.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, a former adviser to Pope Francis, became the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to face a Vatican court when proceedings opened in July 2021.

Becciu, who has always strongly proclaimed his innocence, was among 10 defendants facing accusations of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of power, extortion, money laundering and corruption.

Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi in July called for a sentence of seven years and three months behind bars if Becciu is found guilty.

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Overall, Diddi requested more than 73 years in prison for all 10 defendants, in addition to fines.

The offences relate to the Church’s loss-making purchase of a luxury property in London’s upmarket Chelsea district, funded in part by Peter’s Pence donations, money given by churchgoers for the pope’s charities.

Becciu also faced separate allegations over hundreds of thousands of euros of Church funds paid to his brother’s charity.

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Yesterday, the last of more than 80 hearings took place in a dedicated room within the Vatican Museums which housed the court, and where a portrait of a smiling Pope Francis hangs on the wall.

The trial “has shown that in all these investments, the cardinal never took a measure not in accordance with what his office had prepared for him”, Becciu’s lawyer Fabio Viglione told the court yesterday, demanding his acquittal.

The verdict will be delivered on Saturday, the judge said.

The trial was unprecedented in taking place before a Vatican tribunal of three lay magistrates rather than a religious court.

Francis — who has made cleaning up the Vatican’s murky finances a priority of his 10-year-old papacy — changed the law to stop cardinals and bishops enjoying legal privileges.

Had he not, Becciu would have been judged by a higher court presided by cardinals.

When the trial opened, prosecutors painted a picture of risky investments with little or no oversight, and double-dealing by outside consultants and insiders.

But the trial was mired by procedural wranglings, raising questions about the efficacy of Vatican justice. — AFP

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