A playboy, a femme fatal spy and a powerful Italian cardinal are preparing to stand trial in the Vatican’s biggest corruption probe that has changed the way the Holy See conducts criminal justice.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 73, once one of Pope Francis’ closest confidants, is accused of syphoning off at least 100,000 euros from Vatican funds to help his brother in Sardinia, but also of trying to sabotage a wider investigation that landed him and nine other defendants on the dock.
The case centres around a botched real estate deal involving a former Harrods’ warehouse converted into luxury flats, on which the Vatican lost an undisclosed figure, running into millions of pounds, mostly coming from donations to Peter’s Pence, the papal charity fund.
History will be in the making when the trial begins on Tuesday as it is the first time a Cardinal – or so-called “Prince of the Church” – is facing charges before a Vatican criminal court, thanks to a recent papal reform that stripped cardinals of the privilege to be judged only by their peers, rather than professional judges.
“It shows not only that cardinals are not above the law – something Pope Francis made clear – but that the Vatican itself has judicial resources which it is willing to invest in prosecuting and convicting Vatican officials,” Austen Ivereigh, a British biographer of the pope, told the Telegraph.
“I think a lot is hanging on this trial. If the prosecutors have done their job and the new machinery works well, it will be a breakthrough.”
In their 487-page indictment, seen by the Telegraph, prosecutors claim to have uncovered “a rotten predatory and lucrative system, sometimes made possible thanks to limited but very effective internal collusion and connivance.”
By Alvise Armellini, July 25, 2021, published on The Telegraph