Vatican Prosecutor Challenges Verdict That Significantly Weakened Fraud Case, Although Cardinal Was Found Guilty

Vatican City’s lead legal investigator is challenging a recent court decision that largely refuted his claims of a widespread scheme to defraud the Vatican of significant financial resources. The verdict did, however, result in the conviction of Cardinal Angelo Becciu for embezzlement.

Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican prosecutor, lodged his appeal this week, following a verdict from the Vatican court that revealed internal financial scandals and placed the Vatican’s legal system under scrutiny. The trial’s most notable outcome was the sentencing of Becciu to a five-and-a-half-year term for embezzlement, though the detailed judgment indicated that the majority of Diddi’s extensive 487-page charge sheet was dismissed. The original indictment accused Becciu, along with nine others, of a host of illegal activities in relation to a failed London property deal.

The prosecutor had initially called for prison sentences of up to 13 years for each defendant and sought 400 million euros in damages. Ultimately, the court acquitted one defendant completely, handed down partial convictions to the rest, and ordered them to pay approximately 366 million euros in restitution.

Under the Vatican’s legal framework, which mirrors that of Italy, prosecutors have the right to appeal verdicts just as defendants do. However, appeals must be lodged before the judge’s written explanation of the verdict is released. Despite this, amendments to the appeals can be made, according to legal experts.

Diddi’s appeal, submitted on December 19, insists on the full set of initial charges being upheld, despite the court’s determination that many of the alleged crimes did not occur. Becciu, who faced prosecution for the first time as a cardinal in the Vatican court, was found guilty of embezzlement regarding the London investment and two related cases. Gianluigi Torzi, the broker involved in the deal, was convicted of extortion among other charges.

Enrico Crasso, the Vatican’s former investment manager, was convicted on three counts out of the original 21 he faced. His attorney, Luigi Panella, has indicated plans to appeal, criticizing the narrative that the prosecutor’s office has propagated and pointing out that the court did not support the prosecutorial theory extensively.

The court’s decision also involved legal maneuvering to align with the Vatican’s outdated criminal code, which is based on Italy’s 1889 code and church canon law. This required reclassifying or merging charges to fit existing ones.

In his appeal, Diddi took issue with the court’s rejection of using a prison interrogation of broker Torzi, since Torzi did not appear for questioning during the trial. Torzi had been detained for ten days in 2020 during the investigation without formal charges and was released only after providing a memo to the prosecutors. The prosecution’s powers during the investigation were extended by secret decrees signed by Pope Francis, allowing for actions like wiretapping and detention without judicial warrants.

Defense attorneys have argued that such decrees and the withholding of evidence by the prosecution demonstrate that their clients could not receive a fair trial in the Vatican, where Pope Francis has supreme authority. They have cited these concerns as part of their appeal strategy.

In a critique following the verdict, defense lawyer Cataldo Intrieri highlighted the “contradictions” of the Vatican legal system and the extensive powers granted to prosecutors, leading to a trial process that differed significantly from that in a constitutional state. Intrieri represented Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former Vatican secretariat of state official who was handed the harshest sentence of seven and a half years for embezzlement, extortion, and money laundering. Tirabassi, maintaining his innocence, along with other defense attorneys, has announced intentions to appeal.

The legal battle continues to unfold as the appeals process begins, casting a spotlight on the Vatican’s judicial proceedings and the balance of power within its unique legal system.,

The Vatican prosecutor has filed an appeal against a court verdict that dismantled a significant portion of the financial fraud case he had built, while still resulting in the conviction of a cardinal. The case in question involved allegations of misuse of church funds and financial misconduct, which led to the historic conviction of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a high-ranking official within the Vatican.

Becciu, who was once a close aide to Pope Francis and held a powerful position within the Vatican hierarchy, was found guilty on charges related to embezzlement and abuse of office. Despite the cardinal’s conviction, the verdict was seen as a setback for the prosecution because many of the charges against other defendants were dismissed, and the case was not as comprehensive as the prosecutor had hoped.

The appeal by the Vatican prosecutor reflects a desire to revisit the evidence and legal arguments that did not result in convictions for all the accused parties. The prosecutor aims to ensure that justice is served and that any financial wrongdoing within the Vatican is thoroughly addressed.

The appeal process will involve a higher court within the Vatican judiciary system, which will review the case and determine whether to uphold the original verdict, modify it, or potentially order a new trial. The outcome of the appeal could have significant implications for the Vatican’s efforts to reform its financial practices and restore credibility to its financial operations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *