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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Vatican Prosecutor Seeks Seven-Year Sentence for Cardinal Angelo Becciu in London Real Estate Deal Trial

Vatican Prosecutor Seeks Seven-Year Sentence for Cardinal Angelo Becciu in London Real Estate Deal Trial

Former Vatican Power Broker Among 10 Defendants Facing Conviction
In a trial centered around a botched London real estate deal, the prosecutor at the Vatican has requested a seven-year and three-month jail sentence for Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former Holy See power broker. The trial, which has spanned two years, involves ten defendants, including high-ranking Vatican officials, accused of various crimes related to the contentious property purchase.

Cardinal Becciu, once considered one of the most influential figures in the Vatican, held positions such as deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2018 and the head of the Vatican department overseeing sainthood candidates until his dismissal in 2020 by Pope Francis. The trial has garnered significant attention, as Becciu is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to face such legal proceedings.

Lead prosecutor Alessandro Diddi delivered his summing-up, calling for guilty verdicts for all defendants, who have consistently denied any wrongdoing throughout the trial. Additionally, Diddi urged the court to confiscate millions of euros worth of assets linked to the case.

At the core of the trial is the complex acquisition of a luxury building in London by the Secretariat of State, a transaction that resulted in an estimated loss of approximately 140 million euros for the Vatican. Among the accused are several Vatican employees and two external brokers who are also facing extortion charges.

While the trial primarily centers on the London property deal, it also sheds light on other allegations, including accusations of nepotism that led to Becciu's dismissal from his senior clerical post in 2020. Becciu vehemently denies these allegations, maintaining his innocence.

Reacting to the prosecution's demands, Becciu released a statement expressing his dismay at being portrayed as a sinister character. He emphasized his lifelong dedication to the Church and vehemently denied any financial misconduct or enrichment of himself or his family.

The court is expected to reach its decision by the end of the year, following a summer break and further hearings involving parties seeking damages, such as the Vatican bank.

In the prosecution's request, Becciu faces individual charges, including embezzlement, abuse of office, and inducing false testimony. Diddi has further called for the confiscation of 14 million euros in assets from Becciu and a lifetime ban from holding office, accompanied by a fine exceeding 10,000 euros.

The brokers implicated in the trial, Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi, face sentences of more than 11 years and more than nine years, respectively. Diddi also seeks to confiscate substantial amounts of their assets, amounting to 172 million euros for Mincione and 71 million euros for Torzi.

Additional sentences were requested for other defendants, including nearly four years for Rene Bruelhart, the former Swiss head of the Vatican's Financial Intelligence unit, and more than four years for its former director, Tommaso Di Ruzza. Cecilia Marogna, a self-styled security analyst, faces a sentence of nearly five years for embezzlement charges related to funds intended to secure the release of a kidnapped Columbian nun in Mali by an al-Qaeda-linked group.

Following his firing, Cardinal Becciu was also stripped of certain cardinal rights, including participation in secret conclaves to elect the next pope after Pope Francis's eventual death or resignation. As the trial concludes, the Vatican awaits the court's decision, which will have significant implications for the credibility and integrity of its highest officials.
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