The Vatican’s tribunal has indicted 10 people of embezzlement, extortion, money laundering and fraud in connection with an investment of $ 415 million in a London real estate venture. The defendants include five Vatican officials and four companies from the United States, Slovenia and Switzerland. Al Jazeera news agency reports citing Vatican News.
The charges were brought after a massive two-year investigation into how the Vatican State Secretariat manages its asset portfolio, much of which are donations to the Holy See of the Catholic Church from faithful.
One of the main suspects, Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi, is accused of extorting nearly $ 18 million from the Vatican to turn over ownership of the London building.
Pope Francis’ aide, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, has become the highest-ranked cleric in the Vatican to be indicted over charges that include embezzlement and abuse of office.
Angelo Becciu helped plan the initial London investment when he was chief of staff in the Secretariat of State.
For his part, the cardinal declared that he was “the victim of a conspiracy”, pointing out his “absolute innocence”.
A financial intelligence expert is also accused of embezzlement by buying luxury goods with Vatican money intended to help free Catholics held hostage.
The tribunal set July 27 as the trial date.