Pope Francis’ Former Adviser, Cardinal Becciu Sentenced To Prison, See Why

In a landmark trial that concluded on Saturday, a Vatican court sentenced 75-year-old Angelo Becciu, a once influential Italian cardinal and former adviser to Pope Francis, to five years and six months in jail for financial crimes.

Becciu, who was once considered a potential candidate for the papacy, became the highest-ranking clergyman in the Catholic Church to face a Vatican criminal court.

The charges against Becciu included embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering in connection with a Vatican investment in a luxury building in London.

The trial involved ten defendants, including financiers, lawyers, and former Vatican employees, all accused of various financial crimes. With the exception of Becciu’s former secretary Mauro Carlino, all defendants were found guilty.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, expressed respect for the sentence, which included an 8,000-euro ($8,700) fine, but announced plans to appeal, emphasizing Becciu’s innocence.

The core of the trial centred around a controversial investment by the Vatican in a building in London’s upscale Chelsea neighbourhood.

The court, led by President Giuseppe Pignatone, delivered sentences ranging from fines to over seven years in jail, accompanied by the confiscation of 166 million euros from the convicted individuals. The court also ordered them to compensate civil parties with an amount exceeding 200 million euros.

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The trial brought attention to the Holy See’s opaque finances, prompting Pope Francis, since assuming leadership of the Catholic Church in March 2013, to prioritize cleaning up these financial practices.

The Vatican’s civilian courts were granted the authority to try cardinals and bishops just weeks before the trial commenced, a departure from the previous practice of being judged by a court presided over by cardinals.

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At the trial’s core was the ill-fated decision to invest $200 million in 2013-2014 into a fund managed by financier Raffaele Mincione. Becciu was found guilty of embezzlement, as the judges deemed the investment highly risky.

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The funds were partly used to purchase a portion of the Sloane Avenue property, resulting in Vatican losses ranging from 140 million to 190 million euros.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi had sought a sentence of seven years and three months for Becciu, who consistently maintained his innocence, asserting that he never took any money.

The trial, spanning over two and a half years with more than 80 hearings held within the Vatican Museums, highlighted procedural challenges, including complaints from defence lawyers regarding limited access to crucial evidence.

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Becciu, a former Vatican diplomat and the second-highest official in the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, resigned abruptly in September 2020 upon learning of the investigation against him.

Initially focused on a donation of 125,000 euros to a charity in his native Sardinia, he was convicted of conflict of interest in this matter.

Becciu was also implicated in a 570,000-euro payment to Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian woman, which he claimed was intended to negotiate the release of a kidnapped Colombian nun in Mali.

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Marogna received a prison sentence of three years and nine months. Other defendants sentenced included Raffaele Mincione, who received five and a half years, and Gianluigi Torzi, another broker involved in the London deal, who was sentenced to six years.

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