Report: Vatican requests evidence in Becciu embezzlement investigation

Archbishop Giovanni Becciu substitute of the Secretariat of State aboard the papal flight to Colombo Jan 12 2015 Credit Alan Holdren CNA Cardinal Angelo Becciu. | Alan Holdren/CNA.

Vatican prosecutors have requested evidence from Rome in an ongoing investigation into allegations that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used Secretariat of State funds to help family members, according to an Italian newspaper.

La Repubblica reported Friday that Vatican prosecutors have sent letters rogatory to Rome's public prosecutor's office as they investigate claims that Becciu used his position to give money to companies owned by several of his brothers. Letters rogatory are a formal request from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance.

The Italian cardinal has insisted that the accusations that he misused Vatican funds to benefit his brothers are false.

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 Sept. 24, reportedly in relation to concerns about his management of Vatican financial affairs, including the controversial purchase of a London apartment.

But following the resignation, new reports emerged claiming that Becciu, the former "sostituto," or second-ranking official, at the Vatican's Secretary of State, may have directed Vatican and Italian bishops' money to go toward "loans" for projects owned and operated by his brothers.

The Vatican's recent request to Rome's prosecutor's office was for information to help "clarify" some of the financial and familial relationships of Becciu, according to the La Reppubblica report.

The Vatican request, which has not been independently confirmed by CNA, was reportedly asking for information about the relationship between Caritas of Rome, the charitable arm of the Diocese of Rome, and a company called Angel's srl, of which Becciu's brother, Mario, is majority partner and legal representative.

Angel's produces a beer, and the company has a partnership with Caritas of Rome to affix the charity's label to its bottle and, in return, give the charity 5% of its sales. There appear to be questions about whether the charity ever received the sales money.

The Vatican's promoter of justice is reportedly looking into this agreement, which may also violate Italian fiscal law.

Vatican prosecutors are also reportedly looking into three non-repayable "loans" sent to an Italian company called Spes Cooperative, which is the operational arm of the diocesan Caritas of Becciu's former diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia. The owner and legal representative of Spes Cooperative is Becciu's brother, Tonino.

The business is reported, according to La Repubblica, to have received 600,000 euros from the Italian bishops' conference for repairs and adjustments to structures, as well as the modernization of a furnace for the Diocese of Ozieri, between 2013 and 2015.

An additional 100,000 euros received by Spes Cooperative in 2018 reportedly came from Peter's Pence, the pope's charitable fund made up of Church-wide donations, managed by the Secretariat of State, and under the control of Becciu while he was sostituto. There seem also to be questions about whether these funds were used for their ostensible charitable purpose.

After initial reports at the end of September, Becciu denied any guilt, saying that he "may have made a mistake out of too much love for my diocese, but I do not see the crime. I am ready to shout the truth," Il Fatto Quotidiano reported. 

The Becciu family also released a statement Sept. 25, saying that news reports that members of their family received financial favors from their brother, the cardinal, were "unfounded and maliciously false, in particular for the imaginative and unprovable references to alleged donations from Peter's Pence." 

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