In a landmark verdict, the Vatican court sentenced 75-year-old Italian cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former adviser to Pope Francis, to five-and-a-half years in prison for financial crimes. Becciu, once a prominent figure and considered a potential papal contender, faced charges related to a London property deal that resulted in substantial losses for the Catholic Church.
The trial, spanning two and a half years, involved Becciu and nine other defendants facing allegations of embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering. Becciu vehemently denied charges, including embezzlement and abuse of office, with his lawyer expressing confidence in his innocence and confirming plans to appeal the sentencing.
Becciu’s conviction marked a significant moment as he became the first cardinal ever prosecuted by the Vatican’s court. The charges centered on the controversial purchase of a luxury property in London’s Chelsea area during Becciu’s tenure in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. The property was later sold at a loss of at least €140 million ($152 million).
The investigation into the London property deal led to further allegations, including embezzlement accusations for sending €125,000 ($136,000) of Vatican funds to a charity run by Becciu’s brother. Additionally, Becciu was accused of paying a woman €575,000 ($627,000) for her intelligence services, resulting in a three-year and nine-month sentence for the woman.
Two financiers involved in the property sale were also found guilty and received sentences of five-and-a-half and six years. Two former Vatican officials were sentenced to seven years, while others received fines. Notably, a lawyer and former adviser to the Secretariat, involved in negotiating the property deal, received a sentence of one year and 10 months.
Becciu’s resignation in 2020 from his high-ranking position within the Catholic Church came after an investigation into potential financial crimes, as reported by Italian news magazine L’Espresso. The developments underscored the severity of the charges and their impact on both Becciu’s career and the Vatican’s legal history.