A consulting contract between a Vatican financial security official and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State was approved by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, according to a statement to The Pillar from the indicted Cardinal Angelo Becciu.
The consulting gig is under investigation by prosecutors as part of the sprawling Vatican finance scandal that saw 10 people indicted earlier this month.
“Regarding the alleged consulting deal of Mr. Brülhart with the Secretariat of State, we want to clarify that the aforementioned financial relationship was brokered by the Second Section of the Secretariat of State, as per their institutional role, and was properly authorized and overseen by His Eminence Cardinal Parolin, without any involvement of His Eminence Cardinal Becciu,” Becciu’s attorney told The Pillar July 14.
The statement came after The Pillar reported that this week that René Brülhart, who served as president of the Financial Information Authority until November 2019, was paid as a consultant by the Secretariat of State at the same time he was head president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).
The duel roles are likely seen as a conflict-of-interest by Vatican prosecutors, because the AIF oversees regulatory compliance and anti-corruption efforts at a Vatican bank, the Institutes for the Works of Religion, which was allegedly pressured by officials at the Secretariat of State to provide them with a 2019 loan for more than 100 million euros.
Becciu’s willingness name Parolin as responsible for Brülhart’s contract may signal the beginning of a round of finger-pointing among the principals of the Vatican financial scandal, as several jockey to control the narrative ahead of a forthcoming trial.
Brülhart was indicted July 3 for abuse of office. His financial relationship with the Secretariat of State was confirmed to The Pillar by Brülhart’s lawyer on Monday.
Brülhart’s attorney says the arrangement was above board and that a contract between his client and officials of the Secretariat of the State is in the possession of Vatican prosecutors. But two sources in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and Secretariat for the Economy say questions about Brülhart’s dual roles have gone unanswered, and are likely at the center of prosecutors’ investigations into the former Vatican official.
One senior Vatican source told The Pillar that Brülhart was paid at least 300,000 euros annually for his work as president of the AIF (subsequently renamed the ASIF), a role which only required him to work the equivalent of two days per week, the source said.
The same source told The Pillar that, at the same time, Brülhart was separately contracted for a similar amount by the Secretariat of State to act as an “advisor,” an arrangement which would seem to present a potential conflict of interest, given the Secretariat’s business dealings with financial institutions under the purview of the agency led by Brülhart, including the Institute for Works of Religion.
Sources at the Secretariat for the Economy and the Secretariat of State said that the consultancy payments were arranged by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the now-indicted cardinal who served as sostituto at the Secretariat of State from 2011 until 2018.
But through his attorney, Becciu, who was himself indicted for embezzlement and abuse of office, said he had nothing to do with the deal, and that it was instead arranged by his former boss, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who remains the Vatican’s Secretary of State even while several former members of his department are now indicted.
The first judicial hearing for the indicted figures is July 27.