The testimony had been awaited for more than seven months. Cardinal Angelo Becciu presented his version of the facts before the Vatican Tribunal on Thursday, May 5, facing allegations of embezzlement and financial mismanagement of which he is the subject. A defense he expressed in a lengthy statement read before the judges for two and a half hours, gathered in a room of the Vatican Museums used by the court of the smallest state in the world since the beginning of the trial in July 2021.
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The former deputy of the Secretariat of State, who in this capacity was responsible for part of the Holy See’s investments between 2011 and 2018, defended himself against the two main allegations: the embezzlement of €125,000 for the benefit of his brothers, as and any responsibility for the investment of 100 million euros in a real estate investment that later turned out to be disastrous, causing the Holy See to lose at least 176 million euros.
“I can say with a clear conscience that in seven long years of service I have given myself unreservedly to the Holy Father and to the Churchhammered the first cardinal in history to be tried by a Vatican tribunal. Aware of my commitment and devotion, I feel satisfaction at the many results that have been achieved for the benefit of the Church and deep sadness at the baseless allegations against which I must defend myself. »
“I wonder how I could have acted differently”
During his lengthy defense at the start of a nearly six-hour court session, the cardinal, who was stripped of his cardinal rights by the Pope in September 2020, specifically claimed that he had done so “full legitimacy” to manage the Secretariat of State’s funds and make all investments.
A way of responding to accusations that the Sardinian prelate made a mistake by not consulting the Apsa (Management of the Heritage of the Apostolic See), administrator of the Holy See’s real estate funds, before obtaining his approval for an investment in London granted building. In his speech, he argues that the Secretariat of State enjoyed considerable autonomy in managing its funds at the time.
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More broadly, he confirms that the investment of 100 million euros in London by a fund called “Athena” has been validated by all the experts consulted. Including those later discovered to have pocketed comfortable commissions. “I still wonder today how I could have acted differently given the information given to me at the time.” the cardinal continued, arguing with him “absolutely trusting”.
A former member of the Italian secret service
In reality, the former MP delegated responsibility for decision-making to Bishop Alberto Perlasca, then a member of the Secretariat of State but who has since made the testimony on which most of the allegations are based. “Due to the professional competence and confidence I have shown in Monsignor Perlasca and the office he chairs as a whole, I have never made a decision during my tenure in financial investment matters that was not in accordance with the state of the art offered to me”, Cardinal Becciu defended. He provided an unflattering description of his former subordinate: “You could say that the Secretariat was almost his own little empire of which he was the head. »
Describing his relationship with the latter, the cardinal first stressed that great trust had been built between them and then reiterated that he himself had strongly supported Bishop Perlasca in 2019 after he was ousted from the Secretariat of State. An eviction after which Bishop Perlasca texted the cardinal wanting to commit suicide.
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But Angelo Becciu also mentions in his story a character he would have met in 2020, who presented himself as a friend of Bishop Perlasca and at the time “former Italian secret service”. This contact was followed by several appointments between this woman, Genoveffa Ciferri Putignani, and the cardinal, during which, according to Angelo Becciu, she would threaten to strip him of the cardinalship. “Do you know that I know journalists in Italy and England that you can smash or praise depending on your commitment to Perlasca”, This woman, whose name had never appeared before, would have told him.
The trial has several more months to go after the court set a timeline through July. The next hearing will take place on May 18th.