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Italian cardinal among 10 indicted by Vatican in London property probe

Italian cardinal among 10 indicted by Vatican in London property probe
Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, shown in Slovakia on Sept. 1, 2018, was among 10 indicted by the Vatican Saturday as part a probe into a London property transaction. File photo by m./Wikimedia Commons

July 3 (UPI) -- A fired Italian cardinal is among 10 people indicted in a London property investigation, the Vatican announced Saturday.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was forced to resign by Pope Francis last year, is the highest-profile figure snared in an investigation of the Vatican's Secretariat of State's investment into an offshore fund operated financial broker Raffaele Mincione, the official Vatican news service reported.

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The Secretariat borrowed $200 million to invest in Mincione's Athena Capital Global Opportunities Fund between June 2013 and February 2014, which was used for investment property on Sloane Avenue in London's prestigious Chelsea neighborhood.

The deal led to serious financial setbacks for the Holy See, including $21 million lost by September 2018, the news service said.

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The charges levied include money laundering, extortion, corruption, fraud, abuse of office and embezzlement.

The first hearing is slated for July 27, the Catholic News Service reported.

Charges against Becciu, in particular, include embezzlement, abuse of office in complicity with others and subornation.

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Becciu said in a statement released by his lawyers that he is a "victim of an organized plot hatched" against him and "unparalleled attacks in the media."

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Because of his faith, he is able "to find the strength to fight this battle for truth," he added. "Finally the time for clarification is coming, and the court will be able to see the absolute falsity of the accusations."

Charges were brought against both ecclesiastical and lay personnel in the Secretariat of State, senior members of the church's former Financial Information Authority and figures involved in international finance, the Vatican said.

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Mincione was accused of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds, and money laundering,

The investigation previously led to a raid on the Secretariat's offices in October 2019 and the arrest of another broker in the London property transaction, Italian investor Gianluigi Torzi, on charges of extortion, fraud and money-laundering.

Becciu was not a suspect at first, but became one after Vatican magistrates accused him of "interference," alleging he was behind sudden offers in May 2020 to acquire the building a few days ahead of interrogation of Torzi.

Among the others indicted Saturday was Cecilia Marogna, an Italian political analyst, whom Becciu allegedly hired as a consultant. She was charged with extortion.

The Vatican magistrates also accused Enrico Crasso, a long-time investment manager, and Fabrizio Tirabassi, a notetaker, of playing key roles in the scandal.

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Crasso has the longest list of charges, including embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering and self-laundering, fraud, abuse of office, materially falsifying public documents and falsifying internal agreements.

Tirabassi is charged with corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of office.

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