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10 people, including one of the Pope’s former aides, have been indicted in Vatican City over alleged financial crimes relating to a multi-million pound London real-estate deal.
A Vatican criminal tribunal charged Cardinal Angelo Becciu along with five former Vatican officials and a number of Italian businessmen with crimes including embezzlement, extortion, fraud and abuse of office. The indictments were made following an investigation in the use of Church funds to purchase a €350 million apartment block in Chelsea, west London, in 2018.
Over the past two years, investigators have explored how the Vatican’s Secretariat of State managed the Church’s asset portfolio, with the defendants accused of defrauding the Church of millions of dollars, much of which was donated to the Vatican to ostensibly be used for charity work.
One of the defendants was charged with embezzling funds intended to pay ransoms for Catholic priests and nuns being held hostage in Africa, instead allegedly using the money to buy luxury goods, NPR reports.
The investigation centred on the purchase of the London apartment block, with Italian property broker Gianluigi Torzi accused of extorting €15 million from the Vatican and giving himself full voting rights in the purchase deal with the knowledge and approval of Cardinal Becciu.
Becciu, 73, previously oversaw the Secretariat, and was fired by Pope Francis as the church’s saint-making chief last year over a separate investigation into allegations he donated state funds to a charity run by his brother. Becciu has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is ‘the victim of a conspiracy’, BBC News reports.
In a statement made through his lawyers, Becciu said:
I am the victim of a plot hatched against me and I have been waiting for a long time to know any accusations against me, to allow myself to promptly deny them and prove to the world my absolute innocence.
An initial trial date in the case has been set for July 27.
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