A Vatican judge on Saturday indicted 10 people, including a once-powerful cardinal, on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud. This occurred in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350-million-euro ($415 million) investment in a London real estate venture. Five former Vatican officials, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu and two officials from the Secretariat of State, were indicted, as well as Italian businessmen who handled the London investment. Vatican prosecutors accuse the main suspects of bilking millions of euros from the Holy See in fees and other losses related to financial investments that were funded in large part by donations to the pope for works of charity. Among those who will stand trial later this month is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was once the third-highest-ranked figure in the Vatican.
A Holy See spokesman said a special procedure, involving Pope Francis’s personal approval, was needed for the indictment of a cardinal. The prospect of a cardinal facing a Vatican trial appears unprecedented in the modern history of the church. The charges facing the individuals range from fraud to money laundering to extortion. The president of the Vatican’s criminal tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, set July 27 as the trial date. In a statement Saturday issued by his lawyers, Becciu insisted on the “absolute falsity” of the accusations against him and denounced what he said was “unparalleled media pillory” against him in the Italian press.