Vatican trial defendants sentenced to total of 37 years in prison

Cardinal Angelo Becciu is sentenced by the Vatican court to five years and six months imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from public office, and an eight thousand euro fine. Penalty fines also given to defendants Di Ruzza and Brülhart, while Monsignor Carlino is acquitted. Penalties given to defendants Tirabassi, Torzi, Crasso and Marogna.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Five years and six months imprisonment, plus perpetual interdiction from public office and an eight thousand euro fine marked the penalties handed down in the sentence imposed on Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu by the Vatican Tribunal at the conclusion of the trial regarding the management of funds of the Secretariat of State, focused on the purchase and sale of a building in London. Cardinal Becciu was found guilty of three counts of embezzlement, according to the sentence pronounced Saturday afternoon at 4:07 p.m. by the Tribunal’s president, Giuseppe Pignatone, in the Vatican Museums’ multifunctional hall.

Fines were handed down to René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, former president and director of the Vatican’s Supervisory and Financial Information Authority, respectively, amounted to a 1,750 euro fine. For Enrico Craso, former financial adviser to the Secretariat of State, the court imposed a sentence of seven years imprisonment and a ten thousand euro fine and interdiction from public office. For financier Raffaele Mincione five years and six months, an eight thousand euro fine, and disqualification from public office. For the former employee of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State, Fabrizio Tirabassi, the court sentencing called for seven years imprisonment and a ten thousand euro fine, and disqualification from public office.

For lawyer Nicola Squillace, with extenuating circumstances, one year and ten months imprisonment, and a suspended sentence of five years. For broker Gianluigi Torzi six years and six thousand euros, disqualification from public office, and a submission to special supervision for one year according to Article 412 of the Criminal Code. Three years and nine months were handed down to manager Cecilia Marogna, and a temporary ban on holding public office for the same period. A penalty of 40,000 euros was levied on her company Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti. Many of the prosecution’s charges have undergone a “requalification.”

The verdict issued on the afternoon of 16 December came after 86 hearings. The Vatican Tribunal has issued its first-degree judgment in the trial of ten defendants and four companies that as is well known regarded several issues, the primary one on the purchase and sale of the 60 Sloane Avenue building in London. 

The court found that the crime of embezzlement was proven for the illicit use of the sum of US$200 million and US $ 500,000, “amounting to about one-third of the availability at the time of the Secretariat of State because it violated the provisions on the administration of ecclesiastical property.” This sum had been paid between 2013 and 2014, at the behest of the then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, for the purchase of shares in Athena Capital Commodities, a hedge fund, referable to Raffaele Mincione, with highly speculative characteristics and which entailed a high risk for the investor on the capital without any possibility of managing control. The court therefore found guilty of the crime of embezzlement Cardinal Becciu and Mincione, who had been in direct contact with the Secretariat of State to obtain payment of the sum “even without the conditions having been fulfilled, as well as, in complicity with them, Fabrizio Tirabassi, an employee of the Administrative Office, and Enrico Crasso.”

Regarding the subsequent use of that sum, required for both the purchase of the company that owned the Sloane Avenue building and for numerous movable investments, the Court found Raffaele Mincione guilty of the crime of self-laundering. The Vatican magistrates, on the other hand, excluded the responsibility of Becciu, Crasso Enrico and Tirabassi Fabrizio about the other crimes of embezzlement charged to them by the Promoter of Justice, “because the fact does not exist, since the Secretariat of State no longer had available the money once it had been paid to invest in the fund’s shares.”

Enrico Crasso was then found guilty of the crime of self-laundering in relation to the use of a large sum of more than one million euros, “constituting profit from the crime of corruption between private individuals committed in complicity with Mincione.”

Regarding the Secretariat of State’s repurchase in 2018-2019 via a complex financial operation of the companies to which the property of the aforementioned building belonged, the Court found Gianluigi Torzi and Nicola Squillace guilty of the crime of aggravated fraud and Torzi also guilty of the crime of extortion in complicity with Fabrizio Tirabassi, “as well as the crime of self-laundering of what was illegally obtained.” Torzi, Tirabassi, Crasso and Mincione were instead acquitted “because the fact does not exist” of the crime of embezzlement ascribed to them in relation to the alleged overvaluation of the sale price.

Tirabassi was also found guilty of the crime of self-laundering regarding the holding of the sum of more than 1.5 million U.S. dollars paid to him between 2004 and 2009 by UBS Bank. The court found that the receipt of this sum by the defendant “constituted the crime of corruption in respect of which, however, given the time that has elapsed, the prosecution is now barred by the statute of limitations.”

As for Tommaso Di Ruzza and Renè Brulhart, respectively at the time Director General and President of the Vatican’s Supervisory and Financial Information Authority, who intervened in the final phase of the buyback of the Sloane Avenue Building, both were acquitted of the crimes of abuse of office charged against them and found guilty only of the offences of failure to denounce and failure to report to the Promoter of Justice a suspicious transaction.

Finally, concerning two other areas of the investigation, Cardinal Becciu and Cecilia Marogna were found guilty over the payment by the Secretariat of State of sums totalling more than 570,000 euros in favour of Marogna, through a company referable to her, “on the grounds, not corresponding to the truth, that the money was to be used to facilitate the liberation of a religious sister, a victim of kidnapping in Africa.”

Cardinal Becciu was also found guilty of embezzlement for having disposed on two occasions the disbursement of the total sum of 125 thousand euros to an account in the name of Caritas-Diocese of Ozieri, actually intended for the SPES cooperative, of which his brother Antonino Becciu was president. “Although the final purpose of the sums was in itself lawful, the College held that the disbursement of funds from the Secretariat of State constituted, in the case at hand, an illicit use of the same, constituting the crime of embezzlement, about the violation of Article 176 of the Criminal Code, which sanctions private interest in acts of office, even through an interposed person, consistent – moreover – with the provisions of Canon 1298 C.I.C., which prohibits the alienation of ecclesiastical public property to relatives within the fourth degree.”

In contrast, defendants Mincione, Torzi, Tirabassi, Becciu, Squillace, Crasso, Di Ruzza and Brulhart were acquitted of all other crimes charged against them. Monsignor Mauro Carlino was acquitted of all crimes charged against him.

Many of the defence attorneys present in the courtroom have announced that they will file an appeal.