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Vatican court sentences cardinal to prison in 'trial of the century'

Angelo Becciu is the first cardinal to be convicted and sentenced by a Vatican court and he has repeatedly denied the charges against him. Following the verdict, his lawyer said he would appeal.

Published: December 16, 2023 3:36pm

Cardinal Angelo Becciu was found guilty on Saturday by the Tribunal of Vatican City State on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office. In the case, known as the Vatican's "trial of the century," Becciu was brought to court in July 2021 under a variety of charges related to financial misconduct while serving in the Secretariat of State.

Also on trial were nine other individuals and four companies, according to Fox News.

Following 86 hearings over more than two years, including 76 witnesses, Judge Giuseppe Pignatone delivered the verdicts on Saturday.

Becciu received a sentence of five-and-a-half years in prison, with an additional €8,000 ($8,700) fine, and he is permanently banned from holding office. He is the first cardinal to be convicted and sentenced by a Vatican court and he has repeatedly denied the charges against him. Following the verdict, his lawyer said he would appeal.

Five other defendants also received prison sentences, while former Secretariat of State official Msgr. Mauro Carlino was acquitted of all charges. One company was found guilty.

The trial centered on the Vatican’s purchase of a large property, originally built as a car showroom for the Harrods department store, in southwest London’s Chelsea neighborhood, according to CNN.

The Vatican spent approximately $400 million on the deal, but eventually suffered losses of $150 million after selling the asset. The prosecutors argued that the church was swindled out of millions by spending too much for the property while several middlemen made huge sums and those in charge of the deal were negligent.

Becciu was in charge when the initial investment in the deal was approved, using church funds. He was also charged with embezzling more than €125,000 ($136,000) of church funds in a Sardinian charity run by his brother.

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