After investigations of the alleged criminal management of Vatican assets, including donations by countless Catholics, a trial was opened in Vatican City for 10 defendants, including a cardinal, on Tuesday.

According to Fox News, the 73-year-old, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, was the most senior cleric in modern times to face trial for the alleged financial crimes. Becciu was charged with spending more than €350M or $412M of church money. The said fraud case focused on the botched deal of buying a property in Chelsea that incurred huge losses for the Vatican.

Despite his denial of the accusation, Cardinal Becciu was dismissed by the Pope in September due to the emergence of reports of financial misdeed.

The two-year investigation exposed how the Vatican lost millions of its money. The fraud case involved donations from worshippers. The case also mentioned the purchasing of a former Harrods warehouse in Sloane Avenue, Chelsea in 2014. Becciu was formerly in charge of donations at the secretariat, which handled the funds of the Vatican.

The charges faced by the 73-year-old cardinal included the alleged channeling of money to businesses that were run by his brothers in their native Sardinia. Nine other defendants who were allegedly involved in the case were also accused of crimes that included extortion, embezzlement, money laundering, and abuse of office.

Meanwhile, the trial was set at the special courtroom inside the Vatican Museums. The palace was not the usual courtroom, as more space was required mainly because of the numbers attending and due to the threat brought by the pandemic. The trial would be following the COVID-19 rules implemented at the Vatican. The trial, which is expected to last for months, includes two hearings this week, which focused on technical matters and would likely be adjourned until October.

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Modern Catholic Fraud Case

The nine other defendants accused of the fraud case included Swiss lawyer René Brülhart. Brülhart was the previous head of the Vatican's financial regulatory body, and the former Financial Information Authority was allegedly in the fraud case, alongside his former deputy Tomasso di Ruzza. Cardinal Becciu's private secretary, Monsignor Mauro Carlino, was also included.
The list also included Enrico Crasso, a former Vatican investment manager and Cecilia Marogna, who was accused of buying luxury goods using the funds authorized by the cardinal for Vatican intelligence work. She was also allegedly involved in efforts to free clergy held hostage in various countries.

All of the defendants in the case denied the accusations, but if they would be found guilty, they could face jail terms or fines, or both.

Prosecutors alleged that a London-based broker, Gianluigi Torzi, defrauded the Vatican while using its money to buy shares in the Chelsea building, which was to be converted into luxury apartments. However, in an interview, Torzi called the allegations a misunderstanding.

On the other hand, the new finance chief of the Vatican, Juan Antonio Guerrero, said that his administration is now being more transparent about its affairs.

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Written by Jess Smith

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