Meanwhile, The Australian newspaper said Thursday that the amount transferred by the Vatican could be higher than initially reported.
It said that as much as AU$2 million ($1.4 million) could have been wired from the Vatican to Australia between early 2017 and mid-2018. It suggested there were four payments, beginning with one of AU$415,000 in February 2017, followed by another in May of that year. This was reportedly followed by third and fourth payments, amounting to AU$1.3 million, in December 2017 and June 2018 respectively.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera first reported Oct. 2 that an alleged money transfer was part of a dossier of evidence being compiled by Vatican investigators and prosecutors against Cardinal Becciu, who was forced to resign by Pope Francis on Sept. 24, in apparent connection to multiple financial scandals dating back to his time as the second-ranking official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
According to another Italian newspaper, Il Messaggero, the allegations regarding a transfer to Australia were made by Msgr. Albert Perlasca, Becciu’s former chief deputy at the secretariat.
Perlasca and Becciu worked together for several years overseeing aspects of curial governance, including the investment of Vatican finances. Perlasca is believed to be cooperating with Vatican prosecutors as part of an ongoing investigation into financial misconduct at the Secretariat of State over a period of years.
CNA has not confirmed the substance of the accusation. Cardinal Becciu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or attempt to influence the trial of Cardinal Pell.
Pell has not publicly addressed the allegations, although Robert Richter QC, the former head of his legal defense team in Australia, has called for a public inquiry into the allegations.
After the initial reports, some media outlets speculated that funds could have been sent from Vatican accounts to or through the Holy See’s nunciature in Australia.
On Oct. 6 in Rome, Pope Francis met with Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio to Australia. But AUSTRAC’s confirmation that information had been forwarded to both national police and state police in Victoria suggests that any transfer or transfers under investigation could fall outside diplomatic or sovereign channels.
In 2017, Pell took a leave of absence from his role as head of curial finances in the Vatican to return to Australia, where he stood trial on accusations of sexual abuse, attested to at trial by a single alleged victim. After spending more than a year in prison, his conviction was overturned by the Australian High Court earlier this year.
Police in Victoria have been criticized for their handling of the Pell case.
(Story continues below)
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In 2013, Victoria Police opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes by Cardinal Pell. At the time the operation began, no alleged victims had come forward against the cardinal and there had been no criminal complaints made against him. Although they had found no victims or criminal accusations, in 2015 the program was expanded and put on a more formal footing.
In 2017, Pell was charged with sexually abusing two minors. He was convicted in 2018 on the evidence of a single victim-accuser, the second alleged victim died before the trial. The second alleged victim had denied on several occasions that he had ever been sexually abused.
In December, CNA reported that, as early as 2014, senior police officials in Victoria discussed that the investigation into Cardinal Pell could be used to deflect public scrutiny from a corruption scandal in the force, linked to organized crime.
Cardinal Pell served as the first prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy in the Vatican, a department created by Pope Francis in 2014 to bring coherence and transparency to the administration of curial finances.
From 2011 to 2018, Cardinal Becciu served as “sostituto” at the Secretariat of State. CNA has reported that Becciu and Pell clashed repeatedly over the Australian cardinal’s attempts to reform Vatican finances.
Following the allegations that Becciu used Vatican funds in an attempt to interfere in Pell’s trial in Australia, on Oct. 17 Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said that, “regarding the everlasting attention of some journalists to Cardinal Pell’s trial,” Becciu “is compelled to reiterate vigorously that he has never interfered with it in any way whatsoever.”