28 Jul 2021
The Vatican started a corruption trial with alleged offenders including a previously powerful cardinal as Pope Francis ramps up a campaign to overhaul the city state’s scandal-plagued finances.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who served as chief of staff in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, is the highest-placed Vatican figure to face a trial for alleged financial crimes. At the trial that started on Tuesday, the 73-year-old Becciu and two former leaders of the Vatican’s financial watchdog are among the 10 defendants who are accused of offenses including fraud, embezzlement, abuse of office, money-laundering and corruption.
Pope Francis, who once called money “the devil’s dung,” has made the clean-up of the Catholic church’s finances a pillar of his papacy. To drive his campaign home, Francis last year requested and accepted Becciu’s resignation after the cardinal was linked to a controversial London property deal. In the 2014 transaction the Vatican’s Secretariat of State — equivalent to the prime minister’s office — invested in a former Harrods warehouse in the affluent Chelsea neighborhood that was slated to become luxury apartments.
Francis dismissed five Vatican employees over the London deal, which went south, and an investigation was launched to determine whether the bureaucrats were scammed or if they themselves profited.
By John Follain and Chiara Albanese, Bloomberg, 28 July 2021
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