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Witnesses in Vatican mega trial paint bleak image of how Secretariat managed funds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Over a yr into the proceedings, the Vatican mega-trial of 10 people accused of defrauding the Catholic establishment’s funds by way of a controversial actual property deal started once more this week after a summer time recess with an interrogation of the prosecution’s witnesses.

The trial, which resumed Wednesday (Sept. 28) after being on break since July, revolves round a 2018 London actual property buy by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State that finally value the establishment nicely over $200 million, primarily taken from papal funds destined for charity.

After greater than a yr of listening to from defendants, together with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, judges will now be introduced with testimony from the Vatican prosecutor’s submitted checklist of 27 witnesses.

On Friday, Revisor Common Alessandro Cassinis Righini described to judges a tradition of mismanagement inside the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Righini was appointed to supervise Vatican budgets and transactions by Pope Francis in March 2021 however had already been fulfilling that position since 2017, when his predecessor, Libero Milone, was accused by Becciu and Vatican gendarmes of spying on Vatican staff.

Righini painted a bleak image of the Secretariat of State to the Vatican judges, additionally detailing his expertise as an assistant to Milone in 2015. He described a “lack of competence” inside the massive division, which, he mentioned, didn’t implement due diligence and transparency.

In 2018, Pope Francis requested Righini to evaluate the funds of the Secretariat as Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra took over the position of substitute, the Vatican equal of chief of employees, from Becciu. Righini instructed judges that the Secretariat adopted a place of “clear resistance” to any type of monetary oversight.

“We’re used to controlling, to not being managed,” Becciu, who managed the Secretariat from 2011 to 2018, instructed Vatican monetary revisors based on Righini.

Pope Francis stripped the Secretariat of its financial portfolio and assets in December 2020.

When the revisor started investigating the division’s portfolio, he mentioned he discovered 928 million euro deposited in a Credit score Suisse account and invested “in extremely speculative merchandise.” Righini mentioned that to his data Pope Francis was not conscious of the cash.

In 2018, the Vatican revisors additionally discovered “unusual” transactions tied to the London property, which might ultimately lead the Institute for Non secular Works, also referred to as the Vatican Financial institution, to flag the deal to Vatican police.

The London property on the coronary heart of the Vatican monetary scandal. Picture through Google Maps

In line with Righini, the funds used within the London actual property deal had been “tough to guage,” overrun with charges and commissions, and onerous to hint again to the unique house owners.

“It was apparent that it wasn’t the suitable method to handle the cash derived from Peter’s Pence,” Righini mentioned, referring to the fund comprising of donations made by trustworthy to the Vatican, which he confirmed was used for the London actual property funding.

Becciu’s authorized protection underscored that there have been no clear ethical and moral tips for investments earlier than Pope Francis’ reforms last July. Becciu, who had been stripped of his cardinal rights following the financial scandal, was partly redeemed over the summer time when Pope Francis allowed him to participate at a cardinal summit in Rome in August.

Whereas the revisor mentioned he was instructed that Becciu and his successor, Parra, had been conscious of the monetary transactions, he mentioned that he largely interacted with the Secretariat’s monetary official, Fabrizio Tirabassi, and the division’s prime deputy Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. “They didn’t strike me as intelligent and well-versed financiers,” Righini mentioned.

Tirabassi, who managed the Secretariat’s investments, is charged with corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of workplace. Throughout his last interrogation on Wednesday (Sept. 28), Tirabassi was requested by prosecutors about 1.3 million euro deposited in a Swiss Financial institution underneath his identify. Vatican police additionally discovered greater than 2 million euro stashed within the official’s house in bins and historical cash.

Perlasca, who was initially a chief suspect within the London actual property deal, is now a star witness for the prosecutors within the trial. He can be referred to as to testify in courtroom within the coming months, judges mentioned. In line with Righini’s testimony, Perlasca instructed him that “the much less is written within the steadiness sheets, the higher.”

Proceedings in the Vatican finance trial on May 20, 2022. Photo by Vatican Media

Proceedings within the Vatican finance trial on Could 20, 2022. Photograph by Vatican Media


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On Thursday and Friday, prosecutors and protection legal professionals cross-examined witness Roberto Lolato, who labored as an adviser for the prosecution in figuring out the property worth and monetary dealings surrounding the London actual property. Earlier than collaborating with Vatican prosecutors, Lolato labored as an adviser of the Vatican’s Revisor Common and took part in a fee that studied the funds of the Secretariat of State between 2018 and 2019.

Lolato answered questions surrounding the accuracy of the analysis of the value of the London actual property, bearing in mind the numerous mortgage taken out by financier Raffaele Mincione when he bought the property, in addition to any potential earnings. Mincione, whose fund the Vatican invested in, is among the many defendants within the trial and has declared his innocence from the accusations of fraud and embezzlement earlier than judges.

Lawyer Nicola Squillace, charged with fraud, embezzlement and cash laundering, additionally spoke to the judges on Thursday, detailing his position in drafting the 2018 Vatican deal giving Italian entrepreneur Gianluigi Torzi the ultimate say on the property. Torzi is accused of extortion, embezzlement, fraud and cash laundering however has refused to testify on the Vatican courtroom.

Squillace’s testimony highlighted the position of different middlemen who’ve been notably absent from the proceedings. Fund supervisor Alessandro Noceti, monetary marketing consultant Nicola Dal Fabbro, and businessman Giuseppe Milanese have develop into family names on the trial however usually are not listed as witnesses or charged with any crime.

Squillace testified that the architect Luciano Capaldo performed a key position in drafting the doc that handed voting shares of the fund proudly owning the property to Torzi and likewise confirmed that Torzi primarily managed the London actual property in 2019.

“We will’t wait to ask the architect Capaldo many questions,” mentioned Torzi’s lawyer throughout the listening to on Friday. Capaldo has been referred to as to testify in courtroom within the coming weeks.

Vatican prosecutors mentioned they intend to current a extra full checklist of witnesses to the judges, which is able to doubtless draw out the already prolonged and sophisticated trial. It’s not identified whether or not Parra and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will testify in courtroom, given their insider role and knowledge of the deal.


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