Vatican Becciu investigation: Searches carried out at Sardinian diocese, social cooperative

CNA 5d164ae8931a2 158096 2 1 Cardinal Angelo Becciu./ Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Searches were carried out this week on the Italian island of Sardinia in connection with a Vatican investigation into accusations of embezzlement by Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

The searches took place at the offices of Spes Cooperative, a limited liability corporation owned and legally represented by Becciu’s brother Antonino, as well as at the Diocese of Ozieri and its diocesan charity, Caritas.

Ozieri is the former diocese of Becciu, who is from Sardinia.

Rome prosecutor Maria Teresa Gerace is reported to have ordered the searches at the request of Vatican prosecutors.

Becciu’s lawyer issued a statement June 10 welcoming the search and insisting that a review of documents would show that Becciu’s actions were legitimate.

He said that an investigation into the documents taken in the searches “can only further confirm the absolute correctness of the conduct of His Eminence Cardinal Becciu, the Diocese of Ozieri, and the Spes social cooperative, whose work is free from censure of any order and grade and perfectly responds to institutional prerogatives and purposes.”

In a statement on Facebook, Becciu’s brother Mario said that the raid had been requested in October 2020 but was only carried out now, by Italy’s financial police.

He also said that the documents would show the allegations of embezzlement against his brother to be false.

“There was no passing of money between brothers!” he wrote. “The overwhelming truth will speak for itself.”

Becciu, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, is expected to stand trial at the Vatican for charges related to financial malfeasance while he was the sostituto, or second-ranking official, at the Secretariat of State.

Portfolio statements made public in media reports last year showed that Becciu had directed Vatican and Italian bishops’ money to go toward “loans” for projects owned and operated by his brothers.

The Italian weekly L’Espresso reported in September 2020 that Becciu obtained two loans from the Italian bishops’ conference to pay out two non-repayable loans of 300,000 euros ($364,000) each to Spes Cooperative in 2013 and 2015.

In 2018, Becciu gave a third sum to Spes Cooperative of 100,000 euros ($121,000) from Peter’s Pence, of which he had control as then sostituto.

The L’Espresso report was published as Becciu resigned as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals on Sept. 24, 2020.

According to reports, the large proceeds of the companies of the Becciu brothers were later reinvested in low-risk safe-haven equity, holding, and financial packages.

Income generated from these investments was then reinvested in funds previously invested in by the Secretariat of State, such as the Centurion Fund, which has links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals.

Bishop Corrado Melis of Ozieri said that he was saddened by the search, which he called “an unnecessarily painful path.” He added that the diocese would have cooperated in handing over documents to the Holy See.

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The frequent and proper organization of the diocesan accounts “constitute a guarantee of regular and transparent management” of the spiritual and charitable activities of the Diocese of Ozieri, he said.

In his statement, the bishop said that the search of the diocese was carried out by the Vatican gendarmes. The Vatican gendarmes do not have jurisdiction over Italian territory.

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