Ten people, including a former high-ranking cardinal fired by Pope Francis last September, have been indicted by the Vatican on charges ranging from money laundering to embezzlement of the papal charity fund.
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Vatican’s former secretary of state who was once the head of the Holy See’s saint-making wing, is the highest-ranking prelate to be indicted by the Vatican on any thing other than clerical sex abuse charges. He was accused earlier this year of funneling $800,000 of the pope’s charity money to buy false testimony against Cardinal George Pell who was convicted and later acquitted of sexually abusing choir boys in Australia.
The current indictment does not concern that accusation, but instead focuses on real estate in London that Becciu is said to have helped procure to the financial benefit of his biological brothers at the expense of his spiritual brothers.
Two other officials who previously worked for the Vatican’s corruption oversight department along with former aides of Becciu when he worked in the Vatican’s Secretary of State office will also stand trial alongside the cardinal. Lay people, including brokers who secured the London property deal, were also named in the 487-page indictment, which includes allegations against four companies.
“Initial activities carried out with rogatorial commissions in numerous foreign countries (United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, Jersey, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland) brought to light a vast web of relationships with operators in the financial markets that generated substantial losses for Vatican finances which also drew from those resources destined for the Holy Father’s personal acts of charity,” the indictment, summarized by Vatican News Service, states.
The investigation that led to the indictments began in 2019, when an Italian magazine unearthed documents related to a property on Sloane Square in London that housed around 100 apartments, including some said to be used by priests and other clergy for unseemly rendezvous.
The property was purchased through creative accounting that siphoned some of the pope’s charity fund without the pope’s approval. After Francis authorized a raid on the Vatican’s own financial oversight offices in Rome—which included posting ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ style posters on Vatican City’s fortified gates to keep those under investigation out— he assigned an anti-mafia prosecutor to get to the bottom of the alleged charity fund theft.
The same investigation led to a number of surprises, including a $4.5 million expenditure to finance the 2019 films Men in Black: International and Elton John’s rather steamy biopic Rocketman, which portrays gay sex of the kind the Vatican has scorned. Elton John even tweeted about the hypocrisy in March, writing, “How can the Vatican refuse to bless gay marriages because they “are sin,” yet happily make a profit from investing millions in “Rocketman”—a film which celebrates my finding happiness from my marriage to David??”
No trial date has been set.