Cardinal Convicted By Vatican Court In Historic First

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Hailey Gomez General Assignment Reporter
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The first cardinal to be successfully prosecuted by the Vatican criminal court was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to over five years in prison Saturday, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the pope’s former chief of staff, was charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy and witness tampering in July 2021 after he purchased a London investment property worth 350 million-euros (almost $382 million), according to the Catholic News Agency. (RELATED: Pope Francis Punishes Another Conservative American Catholic Leader: REPORT)

The 75-year-old cardinal, however, was only found guilty on several counts of embezzlement, with the Vatican court absolving the other charges, CBS News reported.  

The trial, which lasted nearly two and a half years, sat for 86 sessions, with the Vatican’s court president Giuseppe Pignatone reading aloud the cardinal’s verdict Saturday, according to the Catholic News Agency. Along with Becciu’s sentencing to five and a half years in prison and a fine equivalent to $8,700, he will be permanently disqualified from holding public office, the outlet reported.

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Becciu had reportedly used the London investment property to develop a former Harrods warehouse into luxury apartments, according to CBS News. Prosecutors accused Vatican clergy, including Becciu and brokers of cheating the Holy See out of tens of millions of euros, extorting the Vatican government for 15 million euros to control the building, the outlet reported.

Originally seeking prison terms from three to 13 years as well as damages of over 400 million euros, prosecutors in the case additionally accused the cardinal of sending 125,000 euros from the Vatican government’s fund to a Sardinian charity operated by his brother, CBS reported. (RELATED: Why Is The Vatican Investigating A Conservative Bishop In Texas?)

Along with Becciu, five others who were involved with the transactions regarding the investment property were sentenced to jail. Former Vatican employee Fabrizio Tirabassi was convicted of extortion and money-laundering, as well as Vatican financial consultant Enrico Crasso, who was found guilty on several charges, according to the Catholic News Agency. 

The Italian businessman who brokered the last stages of the investment property, Gianluigi Torzi, was found guilty of extortion, and received a six-year sentence, the Catholic News Agency reported. The investment manager who had owned the London property, Raffaele Mincione, was also convicted of embezzlement and money laundering, receiving five years and six months of jail time, the outlet reported.

The final sentencing of three years and nine months was to security consultant Cecilia Marogna, who had been hired by the cardinal, according to the Catholic News Agency. Additional Vatican officials suspected of charges that included fraud, corruption and money laundering, were acquitted within the trial, the outlet reported. Overall, the Vatican court ordered the confiscation of the equivalent of more than $180 million, as well as a civil damages payment of more than $200 million from the defendants, the Catholic News Agency reported.

Becciu’s attorney, Fabio Viglione, confirmed they will be appealing the ruling.