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In Money Scandals A Cardinal And Nine People Are On Trial At The Vatican

A trial of ten defendants, including a once-powerful cardinal, is poised to begin on Tuesday within the majestic walls of the Vatican City in a case based on a broad investigation into the allegedly unlawful handling of the Holy See’s portfolio of assets, including gifts from countless Catholics from the pews.
Angelo Becciu, a prominent Vatican diplomat who Pope Francis elevated to cardinal status in 2018, is one of the defendants.
Following a two-year inquiry uncovered a network of abuses, Francis fired Becciu as head of the Catholic church’s saint-making agency last year.
Francis has also withdrawn Becciu’s rights as a cardinal, rather than waiting for the outcome of a Vatican court case.
It would have been inconceivable for a cardinal to be in court in Vatican City State, which has its own legal system and even a jail, less than three months ago.
However, Francis altered a Vatican statute to allow Vatican-based cardinals and bishops to be prosecuted and judged by the Holy See’s lay criminal tribunal if the pontiff approves.
Prior to this, Vatican cardinals could only be judged by a court of three other cardinals.
Becciu, 73, is accused of embezzlement and pressuring a monsignor to repudiate information he gave to investigators about the Vatican’s disastrous London real estate transaction. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have filed roughly 30,000 pages of extra paperwork since a nearly 500-page indictment was published in early July.
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Giuseppe Pignatone, the presiding judge, is a retired Rome chief prosecutor who previously prosecuted Mafia and economic misdeeds in Sicily.
The hearings are being held in a vast hall turned into a courtroom in the Vatican Museums to handle the largest criminal trial in the Vatican’s contemporary history.
A group of Vatican-accredited reporters is permitted to see the proceedings in court, but their reports must be filed after the day’s hearing is completed.
Defendants are accused of playing various roles in actions that cost the Holy See tens of millions of dollars in donated monies as a result of poor investments, interactions with dodgy money managers, and alleged favors to friends and family.
The London transaction, which was approved by the Vatican’s state secretariat, is looming large in the indictment.
An initial investment of 200 million euros (almost $240 million) was made in an Italian businessman’s fund.
Half of the money was invested in a real estate enterprise in the posh Chelsea neighborhood, which ended up costing 350 million euros.
By 2018, the Vatican’s original investment was losing money, and it was scrambling to find a way out.
Among the defendants is Cecilia Marogna, a former Vatican secretary of state’s head of staff who was engaged by Becciu as an external security expert.
Authorities claim she embezzled 575,000 euros from the Vatican, which Becciu had authorized for use as a ransom to liberate Catholic hostages held in other countries.
Marogna has claimed that the costs she incurred were repayment for her intelligence-related expenses, and that the rest of the money was her pay.

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