Skip to content

Becciu insists Vatican prosecutor’s case is ‘far from reality’

Cardinal Angelo Becciu criticized the prosecutor’s case against him Thursday as the Vatican finance trial edged toward a close.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

In a July 20 statement, Becciu said that Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican City State’s promoter of justice, had presented an account that he called “wholly far from reality.”

The former second highest-ranking official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State insisted — as he has done since the trial began in July 2021 — that every single accusation made against him was false, “none excluded.”

The cardinal is accused of fraud, embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Becciu was speaking after Diddi opened two weeks of hearings July 18 to sum up the case against the 10 defendants in the trial, which centers on a luxury property deal in London, England, that the prosecutor said had contributed to Vatican losses of up to 189 million euros (around $212 million). 

Diddi presented Becciu as the driving force behind the deal, which he said resulted from a chain of events that began when the Secretariat of State was asked to consider making a $200 million investment in an Angolan oil company, Falcon Oil. That was the point at which the Secretariat of State began its involvement with the Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who owned the London property.

Diddi said that the Angola venture was followed by other “senseless financial operations,” with Becciu seeking to shield the Secretariat of State’s accounts from oversight. 

He argued that Becciu, the Sostituto (Substitute) of the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, was “constantly informed of what was happening” in the period leading up to the London property deal.

“The London building was his operation, it started from him,” Diddi said. 

In his statement, Becciu criticized Diddi for focusing on the 50 million euros donated annually to the pope by the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), popularly known as the Vatican bank, which were deposited in the Secretariat of State’s accounts.

“When I arrived at the Secretariat of State, this tradition was already solidified and I remember that the sum was divided between Vatican Radio, Osservatore Romano, and apostolic nunciatures,” said Becciu, who served as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints from 2018 to 2020, when he resigned from the post as well as from the rights of cardinals. 

Referring to the cancelation of an external audit of Vatican finances in 2016, Becciu said: “Again, I am accused vehemently of having prevented Cardinal Pell and the Secretariat for the Economy (SPE) from carrying out checks on the administrative office of the Secretariat of State.” 

“I repeat: the money administered by the Secretariat of State constituted the pope’s sovereign fund from the time of Paul VI (and has since been kept confidential), it did not form part of the consolidated budget of the Holy See and was accountable only to the pope and the Secretary of State every six months.”

Leave a comment

In an apparent reference to a 2020 motu proprio transferring responsibility for the Secretariat of State’s assets to the APSA, the Vatican’s sovereign wealth fund and treasury, Becciu said: “The change in the prerogatives of the Secretariat of State that placed it above the other dicasteries could not be decided by the Substitute, as Diddi implied, but only by the Holy Father. The proof? A motu proprio was needed to change the nature and responsibilities of the Secretariat of State.”

The late Cardinal Pell, prefect of the SPE from 2014 to 2019, and Libero Milone, the Vatican’s first auditor general, repeatedly challenged Becciu’s assertion that the funds administered by the Secretariat of State were outside of their remit, respectively citing the statutes of SPE and the Office of the Auditor General.

The Italian cardinal argued that Diddi should have attributed responsibility for the financial scandal instead to Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who served as head of the Secretariat of State’s administrative office. Perlasca was questioned by investigators before turning into the trial’s star witness.

“On investments, it is as if the promoter of justice had switched me with Perlasca, head of the Secretariat of State’s administrative office, while I played the role of Substitute,” he said. 

He insisted that “all the activities that Diddi attributed to me had to be carried out and were carried out by the head of office, Msgr. Perlasca.” 

“No one who has had anything to do with the London building or who has taken part in this process has mentioned my name. The promoter has given me responsibilities that I did not have: I have always complied with the dossiers prepared by the office and countersigned by Msgr. Perlasca, and so also for the London building, simply because it was warmly presented to me as an advantageous deal for the Holy See.”

“If they had presented me with a minimum of disadvantages, I would certainly have rejected the proposal.” 

It has been reported that Becciu continued to influence the financial dealings of the Secretariat of State after leaving his post as Substitute in 2018, including authorizing payments to a self-described “security consultant” charged by the Vatican with embezzlement.

In addition to charges related to the London property scandal, Becciu faces allegations that he used his office to funnel money to members of his family, including 250,000 euros sent to bank accounts controlled by his brother, Antonio Becciu, who runs the Spes Cooperative, a Catholic charity in Sardinia. The investigation has involved searches by the Italian police. The cardinal denies the charges and has said that he is proud to have supported charitable work in his home diocese.

In his July 20 statement, Becciu added that he had received authorization from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State from 2006 to 2013, to invest Secretariat of State funds deposited with UBS in the Swiss city of Lugano.

Concerning the proposed Falcon Oil investment in Angola, Becciu said that he had simply told Perlasca to examine if it would be advantageous to the Vatican, rather than pressing him to approve the move. 

The cardinal said that the ultimate rejection of the proposal showed that “the investments were decided by the administrative office and only ratified by me.”

Editor’s note: This report was updated July 21 to include further context for Cardinal Becciu’s statements.

Subscribe now

Comments 1