A cardinal at the center of an unprecedented financial trial in the Vatican: The Holy See announced on Saturday the expulsion of ten people, including influencer Angelo Pescio, involved in an opaque financing case for Italian businessmen, from the luxury of a London building.
Cardinal Bessio, 73, who was a close aide to the pope, will appear with the other defendants in the court of the Holy See from July 27.
He is being tried for embezzlement, abuse of power and witnesses in this case, the first elements of which began to appear in the Italian press in September 2020, when Pope Francis dismissed him from office.
In a statement released by his entourage on Saturday, the cardinal said he was a “victim of a conspiracy” and protested his “absolute innocence”. Claiming to have been nailed into a “media pill,” he said he was in a hurry to explain himself.
Angelo Piccio was ranked second in the Secretariat of State, the central administration of the Holy See, when the purchase of the London Building began in 2014.
Luxury apartments in Chelsea
Among the other accused, Swiss Rene Bruhlhardt, former head of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the financial gendarmerie of the Holy See, must be held accountable for the abuse of power.
Two of the clergy will also stand trial: Monsignor Mauro Carlino, long-time private secretary to Angelo Pesciu, and Monsignor Enrico Crasso, former director of the assets reserved to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a mana worth several hundreds of millions of euros largely from “St Peter Denier in other words , individual donations to the Vatican.
The other accused are Tommaso de Rosa, former director of the AIF, Cecilia Marugna, better known as “The Cardinal’s Lady”, a young Italian chancellor entrusted by the State Secretariat to half a million euros for an account in Slovenia. , investor Raffaele Mincioni, lawyer Nicola Squells, Fabrizio Terrapasi, a former secular official at the Vatican, and Gianluigi Torzi, the broker who was arrested last May in London.
Through the voice of their attorney, Rene Bruhlhart and Mauro Carlino said on Saturday that they have always been “loyal” and act “in the interest of the Holy See”.
The investment at the center of the scandal is a building located in the elegant Chelsea district of London, on Sloane Street, with an area of 17,000 square meters that has been converted into some fifty luxury apartments. The first stake in the project was acquired in 2014 by the Luxembourg Fund managed by Raffaele Mincione Holdings.
The opaque financial management, through Switzerland and Luxembourg, prompted the Vatican four years later to put an end to it by buying the entire London Building.
The building was overpriced, middlemen were greedy and huge amounts of smoke rose. With other risky investments, the damage to the Vatican will amount to several hundred million euros, according to the Italian press.
In November 2019, Pope Francis admitted to the press that there was a corruption “scandal” within the Vatican. “We have done unclean things,” the pontiff lamented.
The Holy See said on Saturday that the London building trial was “directly related to the directives and reforms of His Holiness Pope Francis for the sake of transparency and standardization of the financial affairs of the Vatican”.
The Argentine pope was elected in 2013 to regulate the finances of the Vatican, a difficult reform that has met resistance within some of the “districts” (ministeries) that manage money in a very independent and very opaque way.
In 2017, he noted that “repairing” the Roman Curia (the Vatican government) amounts to “cleaning the Egyptian Sphinx with a toothbrush.”
To that end, he created the General Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, cleaned up the once sulfurous Vatican Bank, closing 5,000 suspicious accounts in 2015, oversaw tenders for his internal expenses, and entrusted the management of the state’s heritage. The Holy See (Apsa) with managing the budgets of several departments of the Vatican.