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Vatican fraud trial

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, once a close ally of Pope Francis, is now on trial in the Vatican, accused of misusing church funds.

He is charged with spending €350 million (£299 million) in 2014 on a former Harrods warehouse in London that had permits allowing it to be converted into luxury apartments, which incurred disastrous losses for the Vatican.

He is also charged with funnelling money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.

Cardinal Becciu, who was forced to resign in September last year but allowed to keep his title, is one of 10 people facing charges of embezzlement, money-laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

Also indicted are two former top officials at the Vatican’s financial oversight unit, officials at the Secretariat of State, once headed by Cardinal Becciu, and Italian brokers and bankers involved in the London deal and other transactions.

Cecilia Marogna, hired by the Cardinal as an external security consultant also faces charges. She is accused of embezzling €575,000 in Vatican funds that Cardinal Becciu had authorised for use in efforts to free Catholic hostages abroad, allegedly using the money to buy handbags, designer clothes and other luxury goods.

According to a Vatican statement, the investigation which began in 2019, brought to light “a vast network of relationships with financial market operators that have generated significant losses.”

Commenting on the case, Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon said:

“Forensic accountants and investigators will likely have played a key role in uncovering evidence of the misuse of funds, but equally, the Cardinal and his defence team will be working hard to find evidence that counters the charges against him.

“The hearing has now been adjourned to October, as the Cardinal’s defence team say they have still not seen all the evidence from indictments issued on 3 July.

“Sadly this is a common problem, even with prosecutions in the UK, in which those accused of wrongdoing can sometimes face allegations in circumstances in which the prosecuting authorities can be less than forthcoming in disclosing the evidence on which they have based their cases.”

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