Even beyond those sensational accounts, much of the media interest in Vatican finances centers on the purchase of a London building from an Italian businessman, Raffaele Mincione, for hundreds of millions of euros, with the deal being finalized in 2018 – after Becciu’s departure from the secretariat.
Far less attention has been paid to previous the use of Vatican funds, including Peter’s Pence, to secure massive loans from Swiss banks, including those with a reputation for disregarding anti-money laundering regulations, in alleged attempts to keep high-risk investments off Vatican balance sheets and outside of oversight mechanisms.
There has been even less scrutiny, at least in public, given to the possibility that Vatican funds were invested in financial products tied to Italian companies with links to organized crime, or indications of conflicts of interest between the businessmen charged with managing Holy See investments.
Other reports have raised still unanswered questions about the possibility a Vatican passport was granted to Luciano Capaldo, a lay businessman involved in the London deal, and the appointment of Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay curial official, to a Luxembourg company controlled by Gianluigi Torzi – who was subsequently arrested and charged with extorting the Holy See. The same lay official was recently raided by police, who discovered hundreds of euros in cash and gold coins stashed in his two homes.
That five members of Becciu’s old department, all of whom reported to him for years, were raided and suspended by investigators months before his own resignation further tarnishes the argument that he is the simple victim of a sudden press campaign.
While Becciu has maintained that he was unaware of anything amiss in the financial dealings of his old department, he nevertheless remained active in the management of Vatican financial affairs even after his appointment to the unrelated post of prefect at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Earlier this year, it was reported that Becciu took personal charge of lobbying the pope and Cardinal Parolin to accept a new bid on the London building from a group of businessmen represented by Raffaele Mincione’s lawyer.
That bid was rejected, but Becciu’s active role in trying to sell the deal to his old department at least suggests his ongoing involvement in financial affairs, and his relationship with a network of individuals interested in doing business with the Vatican.
In a recent interview, Cardinal George Pell expressed surprise at the “technicolor criminality” being reported in relation to Vatican finances, and mentioned disappointment that his own worst suspicions appeared to have been vindicated. But, Pell stressed, the full truth could and must come out in a trial, which is the only real way of closing the matter.
It remains to be seen if prosecutors will formally charge Becciu, or if the Holy See would allow the still-in-law cardinal to face charges in another jurisdiction.
In the meantime, underneath the swirl of daily media speculation and Becciu’s own protestations, the Vatican investigation slowly grinds on, as does the slow unravelling of a scandal apparently years in the making.