The Vatican said Saturday that a dismissed Italian cardinal is among ten persons arrested in a London property probe.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was forced to retire by Pope Francis last year, is the most visible individual implicated in an enquiry into the Vatican’s Secretariat of State’s participation in an offshore fund run by financial broker Raffaele Mincione, the official Vatican news service reported.
The Secretariat borrowed $200 million to invest in Mincione’s Athena Capital Global Opportunities Fund between June 2013 and February 2014, which was used for investment property on Sloane Avenue in London’s prestigious Chelsea neighborhood.
The deal led to serious financial setbacks for the Holy See, including $21 million lost by September 2018, the news service said.
The charges levied include money laundering, extortion, corruption, fraud, abuse of office and embezzlement.
The first hearing is slated for July 27, the Catholic News Service reported.
Charges against Becciu, in particular, include embezzlement, abuse of office in complicity with others and subornation.
Becciu stated in a statement published by his attorneys that he is the “victim of an organised plot hatched” against him as well as “unparalleled attacks in the media.”
He is able to “to find the strength to fight this battle for truth,” because of his religion, he continued. “Finally the time for clarification is coming, and the court will be able to see the absolute falsity of the accusations.”
According to the Vatican, charges were made against both clerical and lay officials in the Secretariat of State, as well as top members of the church’s old Financial Information Authority and people active in international financing.
Mincione was accused of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds, and money laundering,
The investigation previously led to a raid on the Secretariat’s offices in October 2019 and the arrest of another broker in the London property transaction, Italian investor Gianluigi Torzi, on charges of extortion, fraud and money-laundering.
Becciu was not a suspect at first, but became one after Vatican magistrates accused him of “interference,” alleging he was behind sudden offers in May 2020 to acquire the building a few days ahead of interrogation of Torzi.
Cecilia Marogna, an Italian political analyst whom Becciu reportedly recruited as a consultant, was among those charged on Saturday. She was arrested and charged with extortion.
Enrico Crasso, a long-time investment manager, and Fabrizio Tirabassi, a notetaker, were both charged by the Vatican magistrates of having significant roles in the affair.
Crasso faces the most allegations, which include embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering and self-laundering, fraud, misuse of office, fabricating public records, and forging internal agreements.
Tirabassi is accused with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office.