ROME (AP) — The Vatican’s criminal tribunal on Saturday indicted 10 people, including a cardinal, and four companies on charges including extortion, abuse of office and fraud in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture.
The tribunal president, Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, set July 27 as the trial date, according to a Vatican statement.
Five former Vatican officials, including a cardinal and two officials from the Secretariat of State, were indicted, as well as Italian businessmen who handled the London investment. Also indicted on alleged embezzlement charges was an Italian intelligence expert.
Vatican prosecutors accuse the suspects of bilking millions of euros from the Holy See in fees and other losses related to other financial dealings. The suspects have denied wrongdoing.
One of the main suspects in the case, Gianlugi Torzi, is accused of having extorted the Vatican out of 15 million euros to turn over ownership of the London building in late 2018. Torzi had been retained by the Vatican to help it acquire full ownership of the building from another indicted money manager who had handled the initial investment.
Vatican prosecutors allege Torzi inserted a last-minute clause into the contract giving him full voting rights in the deal.
The Vatican hierarchy, however, signed off on the contract, with both Pope Francis’ No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and his deputy approving it. Neither was indicted.
Vatican prosecutors have produced evidence suggesting they were hoodwinked by an Italian lawyer — who was also indicted Saturday — into agreeing to the deal.
Torzi has denied the charges and said the accusations were the fruit of a misunderstanding. He is currently in London pending an Italian extradition request.
Also indicted was another once-powerful Holy See official, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who helped engineer the initial London investment when he was the chief of staff in the Secretariat of State.
Francis fired him as the Vatican’s saint-making chief last year, apparently in connection with a separate issue: his 100,000-euro donation of Secretariat of State funds to a diocesan charity run by Becciu’s brother.
The Vatican statement said “elements had emerged” against Becciu in connection with the London investigation. His name was listed separately from the others in the indictment because a separate procedure is required to indict a cardinal.
Becciu has denied wrongdoing in the London investment; he has admitted he made the donation but insisted the money was for the charity, not his brother.