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Cardinal offers defense after embezzlement claims

Cardinal Becciu's lawyer releases a statement denouncing media reports accusing him of misusing Vatican funds

Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Updated: October 09, 2020 05:12 AM GMT
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Cardinal offers defense after embezzlement claims

Giovanni Angelo Becciu leaves after kneeling before Pope Francis to pledge allegiance and become a cardinal during a consistory for the creation of 14 new cardinals on June 28, 2018, at the Vatican. (Photo: AFP)

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After he was asked to retire by Pope Francis for allegations of embezzlement, Cardinal Angelo Becciu denounced several media reports accusing him of using Vatican funds for other questionable purposes.

In an Oct. 7 statement issued by his lawyer, Cardinal Becciu, the former prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, categorically denied reports that he used the funds to enrich himself, his family or people of influence.

The cardinal told reporters Sept. 25 he was accused of embezzling an estimated 100,000 euros (US$116,361) of Vatican funds and redirecting them to Spes, a Caritas organization run by his brother, Tonino Becciu, in his home Diocese of Ozieri, Sardinia.

The cardinal "serenely awaits the results of every assessment, in any forum, which will finally confirm his fidelity to the Holy Father and the church," he said in the statement released Oct. 7 by his attorney, Fabio Viglione.

In the days following the cardinal's Sept. 24 resignation, Italian media and international media reported several questionable financial transactions the cardinal allegedly made with Vatican funds during the time he was "sostituto" — a position like chief-of-staff — in the Vatican Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claimed that Cardinal Becciu allegedly sent 700,000 euros ($829,529) to accusers of Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted and subsequently exonerated for sexual abuse.

However, the Italian newspaper did not provide any sources or evidence regarding the alleged transaction.

Nevertheless, the report prompted Cardinal Pell's lawyer, Robert Richter, to call for an international investigation into the alleged transaction.

Cardinal Becciu denied the allegation Oct. 3, saying "I categorically deny interfering in any way in the trial of Cardinal Pell," and his lawyer reiterated the denial in the statement four days later.

In addition, according to several documents anonymously sent to the Italian news program, La Iene, the Vatican Secretariat of State sent an estimated 500,000 euros ($587,900) over a period of five years to a humanitarian organization in Slovenia run by Sardinian political analyst Cecilia Marogna.

La Iene traveled to Slovenia to track her down, but her alleged "humanitarian organization" turned out to be only a mailbox at the address listed for the organization's office.

While the funds allegedly sent by Cardinal Becciu were labeled as "voluntary contribution for humanitarian mission," La Iene reported that the money was instead used for purchases at several high-priced fashion boutiques, including Prada, Louis Vuitton and Moncler.

"Everything said about me? All lies. Me, the cardinal's lover? Absurd," Marogna told Corriere della Sera Oct. 6, even though none of the accusations alleged a relationship between her and the prelate.

"I am a political analyst and an intelligence expert who works honestly and who pays rent while caring for my daughter," she said.

Marogna denied being a "compulsive shopper," and claimed that the money was used for "diplomatic trips, payments to information sources, mediations and bank transfers to humanitarian foundations."

Cardinal Becciu denied any improper contact with Marogna, stating that all contact between him and the Sardinian political analyst were "exclusively regarding institutional matters."

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