BREAKING: Vatican court convicts Cardinal Becciu, sentences him to 5 years in jail for embezzling funds — By: Catholic News Agency

Italian Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu (right) waits prior to the start of a consistory during which 20 new cardinals are to be created by the Pope, on Aug. 27, 2022 at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. ( / Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Dec 16, 2023 / 11:49 am (CNA).

Judges delivered a verdict in the Vatican’s financial corruption trial on Saturday sentencing Cardinal Angelo Becciu to more than five years in prison and convicting five other defendants.

Becciu, the pope’s former chief of staff, is the highest ranking Vatican official ever to face a trial in the Vatican’s criminal court. The 75-year-old Italian cardinal was found guilty of several counts of embezzlement. 

The cardinal was sentenced to five and half years in prison, a permanent disqualification from holding public office, and a fine equal to more than $8,000.

The Vatican court’s president, Giuseppe Pignatone, read aloud the verdict on Dec. 16 in the culmination of the nearly two-and-a-half-year-long saga of the Vatican’s “Trial of the Century,” which sat for 86 sessions.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, told journalists on Saturday that the cardinal “will certainly appeal” the ruling.

Five other defendants were also sentenced to jail time, including Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former Vatican employee, and Enrico Crasso, a financial consultant for the Vatican, who were each given seven years in prison.

Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London property at the center of the Vatican trial, received a six-year sentence, and Raffaele Mincione, the investment manager who owned the property, was given five years.

Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian woman who was employed by Becciu as a security consultant, was sentenced to three years in prison.

Monsignor Mauro Carlino, a former official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was acquitted in the trial. 

Two other defendants, René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, received fines of less than $2,000 and Italian lawyer Nicola Squillace received a suspended sentence of one year and 10 months. 

Historic Trial of the Century’

The historic trial centered on what happened in and around the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro purchase of an investment property in London between 2014 and 2018.

The Vatican maintained that the deal was problematic and designed to defraud the Secretariat of State, the powerful curial department at the center of the investigation of financial malfeasance, of millions of euros.

The defendants in the trial were adamant that their actions were above board and that Vatican authorities were in the know.

Becciu, who used to work as the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, was charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy, and witness tampering. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of seven years and three months, a fine of 10,329 euros ($11,236), and a ban from holding public office.

The cardinal has always denied all wrongdoing and claimed the financial deal was managed by his successor at the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra.

Others involved also claimed there was no criminal liability in what took place — or they pointed the blame at parties whose names came up in investigations but who were never charged.

Defense lawyers were critical of the Vatican’s investigation and trial, calling it chaotic and lacking in respect for human rights and due process. One lawyer called for a mistrial.

Many of the 10 defendants, who maintained their innocence throughout the trial, will likely lodge appeals, so this may not be the final word in a trial that has seen a cardinal tried by lay judges for the first time.

This is a developing story.

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