Friday, 25 September 2020

Crooked Catholic News - Cardinal Becciu Resigns Amidst Financial Scandals

Cardinal Becciu, former Prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes and Chief of Staff for Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and dodgey dealer, now stripped of his cardinals' priviledges.
Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.
Vatican cardinal linked to financial scandal resigns and loses rights.

The financial 'irregularities' that have long been a feature of Vatican life are continuing, it would seem, and have involved yet another senior cardinal who appears to have been unable to resist dipping his hand in the open, and largely unregulated coffers.

This time it is a former chief of staff under both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has 'resigned his rights as a cardinal', a euphemism for 'been sacked from his position but allowed to retain his title in name only'.

This sacking, which was announced in a terse statement that gave no reason, yesterday evening, follows a raid on the offices of the Vatican's banking regulator as part of an ongoing investigation into the $225 million purchase of the former Harrods store site in Chelsea, London, for conversion into luxury apartments.

According to this report in the online Catholic news magazine, The Crux:
The deal was brokered in 2014, while Becciu was the sostituto, through an Italian financier and drawing upon funds collected by “Peter’s Pence,” an annual appeal directed to Catholics around the world as a way to support the pope’s activity, especially his charitable works. The original deal was for 50 percent of the London property, but the Secretariat of State eventually soured on its relationship with the first financier and planned to purchase the rest of the property with the aid of another.

The Secretariat of State appealed to the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican bank,” for a loan to finance that transaction, which triggered an internal investigation. In October 2019, Pope Francis authorized raids at Secretary of State as well as the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF), which monitors for suspicious financial transactions, and seven officials were either suspended or fired.

Not only did Becciu have to approve the deal, but he’s been accused of attempting to disguise the loans it required by cancelling them out on Vatican balance sheets against the value of the property, a practice prohibited by general accounting norms and specifically forbidden by legislation decreed by Pope Francis in 2014.

The so-called 'Peter's Pence' is a charity, money to which is donated by the world-wide Catholic lay community, ostensibly there to provide relief for the poor but in reality is a slush fund for plugging holes in Vatican finances.

According to this report in the Guardian:
The investigation into the London property deal led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of its police chief and the departure of the former head of its financial information authority. Becciu has defended the investment, saying it was consistent with standard practice and has not lost the Vatican any money. He has insisted he always acted in the sole interests of the Holy See.
Becciu has also been implicated in a financial scandal involving the rescue a failing Roman hospital where his own niece was given a staff position, as well as questions regarding the financial management of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which he also headed.

However, according to the Italian magazine, Il Messaggero, the sacking was not over possible misuse of Vatican money in the London purchase, but over allegations of embezzlement, again involving the Peter's Pence' slush fund, but this time in the form of a 'gift' of €100,000 to a charity run by Becciu's brother in Sardinia. The charity's official purpose it to help refugees, but the money appears to be unused and sitting in the charity's banks account (according to Il Messaggero).

Vatican watchers are suggesting that the move to sack Becciu is to keep the Vatican ahead of the game pending the publication in Il Messaggero of the results of the magazine's investigation into the transfer of this money by Becciu to his brother's charity.

For his part, Becciu denies any wrong-doing and is threatening to sue anyone who accuses him of embezzlement.

Becciu was sostituto (the equivalent of the US Secretary of State) and Chief of staff at the Vatican during the tenure of the disgraced Cardinal Pell as financial controller, and is believed to have been one of the old guard who sought to undermine his reforms and demands for financial transparency. He is believed to have been instrumental in persuading Pope Francis to send Pell back to Australia to face charges of paedophile abuse of boys - charges for which Pell was acquitted on a legal technicality by Australia's highest court of appeal.

No sooner was Pell removed from his position of power in the Vatican and safely back in Australia, than Beccius suspended the audits by PricewaterhouseCoopers of all Vatican departments that had been instigated by Pell in his self-styled role as "Manager of the Holy See". Amongst the financial 'irregularities' that Pell uncovered were:
  • Money-laundering for organized crime, by the Vatican Bank, involving the illegal movement accross national borders of very large quantities of Euros in diplomatic bags under diplomatic protection, making it invisible to international banking authorities looking for the movement of money by drug cartels and organized crime syndicates.
  • Millions of Euros in secret bank accounts for which no records were kept, run by the heads of departments in the Vatican. No-one could explain where the money came from or what it was used for, so it was confiscated by Pell and used to restore a near-bankrupt Vatican to a position of financial health (and to buy and funish a luxury apartment in Rome for himself).
In the process, the gruff and arrogant Pell made many enemies, including Becciu.

The last cardinal to be stripped of his cardinal's privileges was former Cardinal McCorrick, prior to his defrocking as a priest over a sex abuse scandal involving children and seminarians. A former Scottish Cardinal, the late Keith O’Brien, was similarly stripped of his powers but allowed to keep his title (and presumably his pension) again over a sexual misconduct scandal.

In effect, removal of his powers means Bacciu will not be entitled to vote in any future conclave to elect a new Pope.

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