According to the Vatican News report, they say that Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, the secretariat official who signed the share purchase agreement, and his superiors, had not been “effectively informed to be fully aware of the juridical effects that the different categories of actions would cause.”
When did this get uncovered and why didn’t it happen sooner?
The Vatican investigation started in the summer of 2019, after the IOR (commonly called the “Vatican bank”) and the auditor general’s office presented allegations of serious crimes such as fraud, extortion, embezzlement, corruption, aiding and abetting, and blackmail in the Secretariat of State.
The auditor general noticed that 77% of the Secretariat of State’s portfolio was concentrated in the Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse and that donated funds earmarked for charity, or to support the work of the Roman Curia, may have been invested in “high-risk financial activity.”
Despite Pope Francis’ financial reforms, at the time investigations began, the Secretariat of State had control over large sums of money, including money intended for investment, with little outside oversight.
When investigations uncovered probable malfeasance, Pope Francis ordered that responsibility for investments should be taken away from the Secretariat of State.
In its report on the Vatican, published in June after an October 2020 on-site inspection, the financial watchdog Moneyval noted that there was still a significant level of risk for abuse of office for personal benefit and money laundering by mid- and senior-level Vatican figures.
It added that cases such as the London property deal had “raised a red flag for potential abuse” of the Holy See and Vatican City State’s systems by personnel.
Moneyval said that, though positive actions had been taken since 2014, they were not addressed with the General Risk Assessment, “which raises some concerns as to the degree to which these matters are formally recognized and acknowledged by all authorities.”
The Moneyval Report also pointed out the Vatican’s weak record on convictions for financial crimes, and suggested that sanctions had not been “proportionate and dissuasive.”
The Vatican’s prosecuting judges claim that two of the defendants in this month’s trial, René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, should have noticed some problems sooner in their former capacities as president and director of AIF (the Financial Information Authority, now called the ASIF.)
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The main prosecutor, the documents say, “believes that AIF’s behavior in the persons of its director and president seriously violated the basic rules governing supervision.” The prosecutor argues that AIF would have known that a payment made to businessman Gianluigi Torzi, a sum allegedly received through extortion, was not legitimate.
How have the accused responded?
In a statement made through his lawyer July 3, Becciu said that he is innocent of the charges brought against him and is a victim of “machinations” and media derision.
The trial will be “the moment for clarification,” he said, adding that he believed that the court would uncover “the absolute falsity of the accusations against me and the dark plots that evidently supported and fed them.”
René Brülhart, former president of the AIF, issued his own statement July 3, stating his confidence that the trial would show “the truth about my innocence.”
“I have always carried out my functions and duties with correctness, loyalty and in the exclusive interest of the Holy See and its organs,” he said. “I face this matter with serenity in the conviction that the accusations against me will fully disappear.”