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Vatican Embezzlement: Cardinal Angelo Becciu Indicted For Fraud Over Purchase Of London Luxury Apartments Using Catholic Charity Money

·4-min read

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a close aide of Pope Francis, has become the highest-ranked cleric in the Vatican to be indicted over charges that include embezzlement and abuse of office.

In October 2019, Vatican began investigating on how $200 million funds that it had parked in Swiss bank accounts eventually ended up financing a luxury property development in London’s upscale Chelsea district and in the process generated windfall profits for a company that managed the investment for the Holy See.

In Jan this year, Angelo Caloia, a former head of the Vatican bank, has been convicted on charges of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced to nearly nine years in prison.

The Vatican’s criminal tribunal on Saturday (Jul 3) indicted 10 people, including Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a close aide of Pope Francis, has become the highest-ranked cleric in the Vatican to be indicted over charges that include embezzlement and abuse of office.

Becciu, one of the most powerful cardinal of Vatican and the longtime number two in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was fired in September last year after evidence emerged that the Italian Cardinal allegedly embezzled 100,000 euros ($117,440) from the secretariat to fund a charity controlled by his brother.

In October 2019, Vatican began investigating on how $200 million funds that it had parked in Swiss bank accounts eventually ended up financing a luxury property development in London’s upscale Chelsea district and in the process generated windfall profits for a company that managed the investment for the Holy See.

The sum of $200m held in Swiss bank accounts was controlled by the Secretariat of State and was transferred to a Luxembourg investment fund called Athena Capital. The funds were channeled towards a project to construct 49 luxury apartments at 60 Sloane Avenue. The Vatican is said to be engaged in the project since 2014.

The Secretariat of State serves as the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. It is responsible for tall the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. It manages the millions of dollars in charity given by Catholics around the world.

As a part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities, Vatican police had raided the offices of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and its Financial Information Authority, or AIF and took away documents and electronic devices. The two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.

The Vatican itself had announced that raids were prompted by complaints lodged in the summer by the Vatican’s bank and auditor-general about “financial operations carried out over the course of time”.

Five Vatican employees, including a top official at the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) and a monsignor, were also suspended following the police raid

The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.

Holy See’s investment with Athena Capital was personally authorised by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is said to have met the London-based financier inside the Vatican. Cardinal Becciu was at the time in charge of the administrative duties of the Secretary of State, and reported on a daily basis to Pope.

Vatican Bank Scandal

In Jan this year, Angelo Caloia, a former head of the Vatican bank, has been convicted on charges of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced to nearly nine years in prison.

Caloia, who served as president of the Vatican bank – officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) – between 1999 and 2009, became the highest-ranking Vatican official to be convicted of a financial crime.

Caloia and two Italian lawyers were charged with participating in a scheme in which they embezzled money while managing the sale of buildings in Italy owned by the bank and its real estate division between 2002-2007.

Gabriele Liuzzo, 97, and his son Lamberto Liuzzo, 55, both Italian lawyers, worked as consultants to the bank.

The trio siphoned off up to 57 million euros by declaring a book value of far less than the actual amount of the sale.

Vatican Bank, better known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR, has been embroiled in numerous financial scandals.

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