Vatican Trial: Update on Recent Sessions (1)

November 09, 2022
Vatican Gendarmerie

Various witnesses were heard during the last session of the trial where many accused, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, appeared before the court regarding various facts, but especially regarding everything surrounding the case of the so-called “London building” on Sloane Avenue.

During the 28th session, the head of the Vatican City State Gendarmerie Corps, Commissioner Stefano De Santis was heard. The witness specified that all the administrative, then judicial investigations they carried out followed the complaint filed by Gian Franco Mammì, the director general of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) – the Vatican bank – which concerned the 150 million euros requested by the Secretariat of State.

Many other procedures followed one another, under the direction of the Judicial Authority. Thus, a report from the Auditor General Alessandro Cassinis Righini denounced, on August 8, 2019, the “anomalies in the management of the assets of the Secretariat of State,” especially the change in the nature of investments, initially very conservative, until 2013, then becoming speculative.

The police search of the Secretariat of State offices and the office of Tommaso di Ruzza, the director of the Financial Intelligence Authority, on October 1, 2019 made it possible to provide the first answers, highlighting the role of Fabrizio Tirabassi in the irregularities observed.

The Cecilia Marogna Case

Stefano De Santis stated, “The Slovenian police informed us about an Italian citizen who was carrying out fraud against the Secretary of State… for a total amount of 575,000 euros, allegedly as contributions for humanitarian purposes.” It was Cecilia Marogna.

“The thorough investigation carried out on her revealed the image of a woman who squandered the funds received on travel and personal expenses. The witness also recounted a meeting with Cardinal Becciu on October 3, 2020, who “asked us not to bring up” the figure of Cecilia Marogna. The cardinal denied, in a spontaneous statement, the remarks of the commissioner.

Ozieri and Spes

The case of the diocese of Ozieri and Spes, a social cooperative led by Antonino Becciu, the brother of the cardinal, was investigated. Commissioner De Santis spoke of payments that had not been made to the official accounts of the diocese and of documents drawn up by the bishop to “advocate” the payment of contributions from the Italian Episcopal Conference in favor of the cooperative.

The 29th hearing continued the interrogation of Mr. De Santis, for approximately 7 hours. The witness returned to the meeting of October 3, 2020 between Cardinal Angelo Becciu and the commander of the gendarmerie corps, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, at the cardinal's home.

Mr. De Santis claimed that the meeting had been organized by Mr. Becciu, but the cardinal replied that he had been contacted by Mr. Gauzzi by text message. The meeting was to remain secret, but Mr. De Santis affirmed that he did not see “an astonished or surprised cardinal” who received the two senior officers of the gendarmerie, which suggests “that it was an agreed-upon meeting.”

“We never told the cardinal that this meeting had to be secret, never! A commander going to a cardinal's home would have been a known circumstance in the Vatican,” the commissioner said.

The Money Entrusted to Cecilia Marogna

On this occasion, Msgr. Becciu should have been informed of Marogna’s embezzlement of 575,000 euros and should have offered to reimburse the Secretary of State, but he would have been stopped by Gauzzi, who would have declared that he was the swindler and not the swindled .

In the cardinal's apartment, no reference was made to Marogna's activities to free a nun kidnapped in Mali, that she was “looting” money from the Holy See. “When we went to see the cardinal, we already knew for sure that Becciu had been informed,” assures the witness. The cardinal claims, on the contrary, that he had learned it during the meeting with Gauzzi and De Santis.

According to the latter, the cardinal did not seem surprised by the fraud, “but he was only upset by the fact that this name was being mentioned, because it could harm him and his family.”

Secret Check-In at the Bulgari Hotel

An important conversation took place at the Bulgari Hotel between the broker Gianluigi Torzi, former Vatican employee Fabrizio Tirabassi, and Enrico Craso, financial advisor to the Secretariat of State, who secretly recorded the conversation.

Constables noted 'criminal behavior' by Torzi, to whom the Secretariat of State had to pay £15m for him to abandon the thousand voting shares that guaranteed him full control of the London property. The prosecution says it was extortion.

The 30th session was opened with a new and long spontaneous statement by Cardinal Becciu, in response to statements made the day before during the interrogation of Gendarmerie Commissioner Stefano De Santis.

The cardinal referred back to the meeting of October 3, 2020. According to him, Mr. Gauzzi had asked that the meeting be “protected by an absolute commitment of confidentiality”: “I absolutely confirm that I was told to keep the secret and I respected this commitment and I never confided to anyone about this meeting,” he said.

The cardinal also mentioned the financing of the CEI to the Caritas of the Sardinian diocese of Ozieri, then devolved to the Spes cooperative, of which his brother Tonino is the owner. But “I did not see and do not see any crime there, because mutual aid is a normal practice in the Church,” emphasized Msgr. Becciu. They’ve helped over 70 people find employment.

The accused pointed out that “my family members were suspected of having enriched themselves.” In this regard, the cardinal invited Commissioner De Santis to state publicly whether the inspections had found any irregular income in family members’ accounts: “I authorize you to say so! Never a penny entered the pockets of my brothers.”

Finally, as for Cecilia Marogna, he clarified with her the question of fraud in the use of the money entrusted, and she assured him that it was not true. “I did not fail to tell her that if she had drawn on this money, she absolutely had to return it.”