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A Trial Has Begun At The Vatican Over A Financial Scandal That Has Rocked The Papacy

A cardinal accused of persuading a subordinate to lie to prosecutors.
Traders and attorneys that deceived the Vatican No.
2 to persuade him to approve a bad real estate deal
A self-described intelligence analyst who spent Vatican money on Prada and Louis Vuitton items instead of sending it to rebels holding a Catholic nun captive.
In the largest criminal trial in the Vatican’s modern history, which begins Tuesday in a converted courtroom in the Vatican Museums, prosecutors have accused a staggering string of scandals.
The once-powerful cardinal and nine others are accused of defrauding the Holy See of tens of millions of dollars in donations through disastrous investments, dubious financial dealings, and apparent favors to friends and family.
If convicted, they might face prison time, fines, or both.
The trial, which is expected to be postponed for several months after the initial sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, is the climax of a two-year probe into the Holy See’s sham 350 million-euro London real estate business.
Its operation exposed the Vatican’s once-secret financial dealings and structural dysfunction, which allowed a small group of people to cause so much financial and reputational damage to the Vatican with little knowledge or oversight.
Yet, the evidence presented by the prosecutors reveals that Pope Francis and his closest aides were not only aware of some of the significant transactions, but also actively authorized them in some cases, despite the lack of full documentation or knowledge of the specifics.
Given the Holy See’s hierarchical structure and the religious superiors’ requirement of subordinates’ compliance, it’s unclear why certain people were accused while others were not.
Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, a Vatican monsignor who was previously considered a crucial suspect by authorities, escaped indictment.
Perlascas office was in charge of the London investment from beginning to end, and his supervisor had singled him out as the principal in-house perpetrator for concealing the deal’s expensive consequence.
But, prosecutors said that Perlasca turned and became an crucial witness after being pressured by the lone cardinal on trial, Angelo Becciu, to retract his evidence.
Francis, who possesses supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power in Vatican City as an absolute monarch, has already convicted Becciu in many respects.
Francis showed Becciu proof that he had sent 100,000 euros in Vatican finances to a Sardinian charity headed by Becciu’s brother last year.
Beccius’ resignation as director of the Vatican’s saint-making office was secured by Francis, who subsequently stripped him of his privileges as a cardinal, a consequence that was immediately reported by the Vatican press office.
Becciu has denied any wrongdoing and has been charged with embezzlement and pushing Perlasca to recant.
Becciu, a former chief of staff in the Vatican’s secretary of state, is now related to Cecilia Marogna, a mysterious woman who is also on trial, whom he engaged as an external security consultant in 2016.
Authorities claim Marogna stole 575,000 euros from the Vatican, which Becciu had authorized for ransom payments to liberate Catholic captives.
The Vatican wire transfers were instead used to settle bills at luxury boutiques and boutique hotels, according to bank records from her Slovenian front firm.
Marogna claims the money was lawful remuneration and reimbursement for expenditures related to her intelligence work.
The Vatican’s secretariat of state chose to invest an initial 200 million euros in a fund run by Italian billionaire Raffaele Mincione in 2014, with half of the money going into the London skyscraper and the other half going into other ventures.
Prosecutors claim that by November 2018, the original investment had lost 18 million euros, causing the Church to seek a way out while keeping its part in the building in London’s posh Chelsea neighborhood.
Another broker, Gianluigi Torzi, was involved in arranging a 40 million euro transfer to Mincione.
Torzi allegedly deceived the Holy See by covertly reorganizing 1,000 shares in the property’s new holding company, giving him complete voting rights, according to prosecutors.
Torzi then allegedly demanded 15 million euros from the Vatican in order to gain ownership of the building, which the Vatican believed it had already purchased.
Mincione and Torzi have denied any wrongdoing and have been charged with fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and other offenses.
Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Beccius’ replacement as chief of staff, told prosecutors that Francis had made it clear by November 2018 that he intended to lose as little money as possible in order to ultimately gain possession of the property and “turn the page and start over,” a message Francis repeated to Torzi personally during a January 2019 meeting, according to Pena Parra.
Pena Parra said the Vatican had two options after realizing Torzi controlled the building and Francis’ intention to move forward.
They were plans to prosecute him or compensate him for the 1,000 voting shares he possessed.
The Vatican was concerned, according to Pena Parra, that suing him would take years and could even end in Torzi’s favor.
“With the opinion of lawyers and professionals, option No is the better choice between these two possibilities.”
Pena Parra stated in his statement, which was seen by The Associated Press, that “2 was picked because it was considered more inexpensive, with more controlled hazards, and in a more controllable time frame.”
Notwithstanding this, Torzi’s 15 million euro payoff is at the center of the dispute.
Torzi is accused of extorting money from the Vatican and the Vatican’s financial supervision body of failing to stop the arrangement, according to prosecutors.
The Vatican, according to the oversights managers, had no choice but to pay Torzi because the Secretariat of State had signed legally binding contracts giving Torzi control of the facility, whether deliberately or not.
Prosecutors claim that a lawyer tricked Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin into authorizing Torzis contract by drafting a one-page statement detailing the deal but missing essential elements, such as Torzis voting stake.
The Vatican only discovered the lawyer’s connection to Torzi afterwards, according to Pena Parra.
Pena Parra claimed the cardinal accepted the sale based on the lawyers’ brief memo and promises from Perlasca and another Vatican money manager, Fabrizio Tirabassi, according to Parolin’s own notes.
No charges were brought against Parolin, Pena Parra, or Perlasca.
Tirabassi is accused of bribery, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office, but he disputes the charges.

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