ROME – After Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu was asked to step into an early retirement by Pope Francis over allegations of embezzlement at the end of last month, the prelate has hit back against several other accusations of financial wrongdoing that have been made since, most of which involve his brothers.
On Sept. 24 the Vatican made the surprise announcement that Becciu – formerly the “number two” official in the Vatican – had retired from his current post as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, and from his rights and duties as a cardinal, presumably barring him from participating in the next conclave.
At an impromptu press conference the following day, Becciu said Pope Francis had requested his resignation over allegations that he used money from the Secretariat of State and from the Vatican’s Peter’s Pence charitable fund to contract companies two of his brothers hold ties to.
Specifically, he was charged with illicitly directing 100,000 Euro (just over $116,000) to a charitable foundation in Sardinia run by one of his brothers and 200,000 to a construction company involving two other brothers for repairs to Vatican embassies in different parts of the world. He denied any wrongdoing in either case.
Though he insisted this was not mentioned during his brief, 20-minute audience with the pope, Becciu has also faced pressure over his role in brokering an illegitimate real estate contract in London during his 7-year stint as the sostituto, or “substitute,” in the Secretariat of State.
In an Oct. 7 statement, Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, detailed several other accusations that have been made against the cardinal not mentioned during his briefing, insisting they are “absolutely false.”
In a nutshell, here’s what’s been alleged:
— Becciu and at least some of his four brothers parked money in foreign bank accounts and investment funds.
— While Becciu was still in charge, money was transferred from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State into personal accounts belonging to members of his family.
— Becciu helped broker a deal for a beer company run by his brother, Mario, involving the Catholic charity Caritas in Rome. In exchange for the use of the Caritas logo, the company was to donate a percentage of its proceeds to the charity.
— Becciu and his brothers invested money, possibly including Vatican resources, in speculative hedge funds.
— Becciu directed Vatican money to support an Angolan oil company run by Anthony Mosquito, presumably in exchange for something
— Becciu directed at least $500,000 over four years to a fellow Sardinian named Cecilia Marogna for a personal motive, either fraud or because he and Marogna were romantically involved. (Marogna is a global security consultant who claims she was paid to offer advice to Vatican embassies and religious orders regarding the risks of kidnappings and terrorist actions.)
— Becciu demanded a 150 million Euro loan from the so-called “Vatican bank” without adequate explanation.
— Becciu used Vatican money to interfere in the legal process in Australia against his erstwhile rival, Cardinal George Pell, including paying off Pell’s accuser. (That charge, for the record, also has been denied by the accuser’s lawyer. It is reportedly being investigated by the Victoria Office of Public Prosecution in Australia.)
Viglione said each of the allegations were false, assuring of his client’s “utmost loyalty to the Holy Father and the Church,” and insisting that Becciu is “serenely” awaiting the result of any inquiries being made.
“Not the Cardinal, nor his brothers hold stocks or bond, even less have stakes in hedge funds or foreign bank accounts whatsoever. No money transfer has ever been made by any means from the Secretariat of State into the personal and private belongings of his family,” Viglione said.
He denied that money was invested into Mario Becciu’s beer company and that the brothers allocated money to hedge funds. He also denied there was any sordid nature to Becciu’s relationship with Marogna and said accusations that Becciu interfered in Pell’s trial and invested Holy See money into Mosquito’s business were wrong.
So far there has been no confirmation of whether the Vatican is investigating Becciu or his activities. Civil authorities have apparently launched an investigation, but no charges have yet been made.
At the end of his statement, Viglione threatened to take legal action against media outlets publishing accusations against Becciu, many of which have been unsourced and bereft of documentation.
Becciu, Viglione said, trusts “in the balance between freedom of press and the right to a proper information that is respectful to every person, reserving the right to make recourse to the Judicial Authorities in any case deemed necessary to preserve his honor and his reputation as well as his family’s.”
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