Vatican Court Sentences Cardinal to 5 Years in Jail for Embezzlement

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. | Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA

Judges delivered verdicts in the Vatican’s financial corruption trial on Saturday sentencing Cardinal Angelo Becciu to more than five years in prison and convicting five other defendants to similar jail sentences for financial crimes.

Becciu, the pope’s former chief of staff, is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to face a trial in the Vatican’s criminal court. The 75-year-old Italian cardinal was found guilty of several counts of embezzlement. 

The cardinal was sentenced to five and half years in prison, a permanent disqualification from holding public office, and a fine equal to more than $8,000.

The Vatican court’s president, Giuseppe Pignatone, read aloud the verdict on Dec. 16 in the culmination of the nearly two-and-a-half-year-long saga of the Vatican’s “Trial of the Century,” which sat for 86 sessions.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, told journalists on Saturday that the cardinal “will certainly appeal” the ruling.


Five other defendants were also sentenced to jail time, including Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former Vatican employee who was convicted of extortion and a money-laundering charge, and Enrico Crasso, a financial consultant for the Vatican found guilty on several charges including embezzlement. Tirabassi was given seven and a half years in prison and Crasso seven years.

Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London property at the center of the Vatican trial, was found guilty of extortion and received a six-year sentence. Raffaele Mincione, the investment manager who owned the property, was convicted of embezzlement and money laundering and given five years and six months.

Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian woman who was employed by Becciu as a security consultant, was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

In addition to finding Becciu guilty of embezzlement of funds from the Vatican property deal in London, judges in the Vatican trial also convicted the cardinal for using Vatican money to pay Marogna and of embezzlement for sending 125,000 euros of Vatican money to a charity run by his brother in Sardinia.

Monsignor Mauro Carlino, a former official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was acquitted in the trial. The court also acquitted the other suspects of many charges, including fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

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Two other defendants, René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, were convicted of failing to report a suspicious transaction and received fines of less than $2,000. Italian lawyer Nicola Squillace received a suspended sentence of one year and 10 months. 

In total, the three-judge tribunal ordered the confiscation of the equivalent of more than $180 million from the defendants and payment of more than $200 million of civil damages to Vatican offices.

Historic ‘Trial of the Century’

The historic trial centered on what happened in and around the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro purchase of an investment property in London between 2014 and 2018.

The Vatican maintained that the deal was problematic and designed to defraud the Secretariat of State, the powerful curial department at the center of the investigation of financial malfeasance, of millions of euros.


The defendants in the trial were adamant that their actions were above board and that Vatican authorities were in the know.

Becciu, who used to work as the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, was charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy, and witness tampering. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of seven years and three months, a fine of 10,329 euros ($11,236), and a ban from holding public office.

The cardinal has always denied all wrongdoing and claimed the financial deal was managed by his successor at the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra.

Others involved also claimed there was no criminal liability in what took place — or they pointed the blame at parties whose names came up in investigations but who were never charged.

Defense lawyers were critical of the Vatican’s investigation and trial, calling it chaotic and lacking in respect for human rights and due process. One lawyer called for a mistrial.

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Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, wrote in an editorial published by the Vatican on Dec. 16 that the judges “had left ample room for debate” and had arrived at the ruling with “respect for all the rights of defendants.”

Tornielli called the trial “the first of such significance and scope in the history of Vatican City State.”

Many of the 10 defendants, who maintained their innocence throughout the trial, will likely lodge appeals, so this may not be the final word in a trial that has seen a cardinal tried by lay judges at the Vatican for the first time.

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.