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Becciu says he is 'defrauded poor' of the Bible, claims cardinals' support

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the disgraced former sostituto at the Secretariat of State, has said he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice in the Vatican City legal process which convicted him of financial crimes and sentenced him to more than five years in prison.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu appearing in an interview with Rai News, Nov. 22, 2023

Becciu was convicted in December last year of multiple financial crimes, following a two and a half year trial. 

In a new interview the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published Sunday, the cardinal insisted that his conviction is an injustice that “cries to heaven for vengeance” and said that while he had become a public “leper” during the trial, he had actually received private assurances of support from other cardinals. 

Becciu also discussed his controversial and illegal taping of a private phone call with Pope Francis during the trial, which he called an act of “desperation.” 

Becciu has always asserted his innocence, and appeal hearings in the case — which convicted nine individuals including the cardinal — are set to begin later this month.

During the interview, part of the cardinal’s latest media push ahead of his appeal hearings, Becciu claimed that he had “been defrauded for almost four years of honor, episcopal ministry and serenity.”

“The Bible says not to let the sun go down without the defrauded poor being judged. It was considered a sin that cried vengeance before God,” Becciu claimed.

The cardinal also said that the Vatican should have done more to protect his rights — especially as a witness of the Gospel.

“I regret [it], but the Vatican, with the trial against me, has missed a unique opportunity to show the world how to administer justice in respect of the rights of the accused,” Becciu said, taking the opportunity to note that while he has been convicted of numerous crimes, his former deputy at the Secretariat of State and key witness for the prosecution, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, has been restored to his position in the curia. 

“It hurt me to have been presented as a ‘business cardinal’,” said Becciu. “I'm not. Never has a penny gone into my pockets and the process has amply demonstrated this. I have not dishonored the Vatican, I have given my life for the Church serving it throughout the world, in the various nunciatures, with dedication and commitment.”

During the trial, prosecutors produced documents — accepted by Becciu — that the cardinal sent more than a million euros of Church money to members of his own family and to Cecilia Marogna, his self-described “private spy.” 

Becciu claims Marogna was tasked on secret papal orders to negotiate for the release of a kidnapped nun in Mali — but she was found to have spent the money on luxury accommodation and designer goods. Marogna has separately claimed that she prepared “dossiers” of compromising information for Becciu on senior curial officials. 

The pope repeatedly, in writing and on the phone, denied any knowledge of Margona’s work or sanctioning it. 

At one point during the legal proceedings, it emerged that Becciu had secretly recorded a phone call with Francis, attempting to get the pope to confirm his involvement in the Marogna project and absolve Becciu of legal culpability. 

In the July 2021 phone call, Becciu could be heard trying unsuccessfully to get Francis to agree he had approved the cardinal’s dealings with Margona. Becciu could also be heard asserting that the whole matter was a state secret and couldn’t be disclosed to anyone — despite his having his niece listen in and record the call without Francis’ knowledge, which is itself, technically, a crime.

Shortly after his election in 2013, Francis issued a change to Vatican City law in the wake of the so-called Vatileaks scandal involving the former papal butler to Benedict XVI. The new law made the disclosure of “information and documents concerning the fundamental interests or diplomatic relations of the Holy See or of the State” punishable by up to 8 years in prison.

Text messages produced by the prosecution also show Becciu was still authorizing payments to Margona long after he left his position at the Secretariat of State.

Asked about the incident in the interview Sunday, Becciu responded that, after the recording was presented in court, he “immediately went to Pope Francis to explain and apologize” and told him it was a “desperate” act born of “the despair of the innocent accused.”

The recording was discovered by Italian financial police on a mobile phone belonging to Becciu’s niece, which was seized during a series of searches conducted at the Vatican’s request on the cardinal’s home island of Sardinia in connection with the alleged embezzlement of funds to his family there.

“Never has a penny gone into my pockets,” Becciu claimed to the newspaper, “and the process has amply demonstrated this.”

During the criminal investigation into Becciu actions, Msgr. Perlasca told prosecutors that on one occasion, he was told to prepare a pay envelope with nearly 15,000 euros in cash for the cardinal, but that he did not know for whom the money was intended — only that Becciu told him a payment had been approved by Pope Francis personally. 

Perlasca also claimed Becciu upbraided him for not destroying evidence of the payments to Marogna.

When asked in 2020 about the money by senior Vatican police officers, Becciu offered to repay all the funds — some half a million euros — out of his personal bank account.

Becciu insisted in court that separate payments of hundreds of thousands of euros in Church funds into his brother’s bank account were for charity, but both Vatican and Italian prosecutors dispute how charitable the Becciu brothers’ purposes were. 

Italian financial police identified forged delivery receipts for nearly 20 tons of bread, which was supposedly delivered to parishes by Spes — the charity administered by Becciu’s brother — for distribution to the poor.

Vatican prosecutors told the court that their Italian counterparts had found the forged receipts among nearly 1,000 pages of paperwork they examined.

When the paperwork for the supposed deliveries was produced, no one could recognize the signatures on the documents, prosecutors said, and Italian financial police concluded that invoices were created just weeks before police searches, and were fabricated to cover supposed deliveries dating back to 2018, for which no other records exist.

Both Cardinal Becciu’s brother Antonio and the local director of Caritas, Fr. Mario Curzu, face prosecution by Italian authorities in Sardinia.

In the interview, Becciu also claimed that he had little knowledge of or involvement in financial affairs during his time as sosituto at the Secretariat of State. 

“I didn’t deal with investments anyway,” he told the newspaper. “As sostituto, I had much more to think about. For the Secretariat of State there was a special office that dealt with this matter and I limited myself to following their instructions.”

“Moreover,” Becciu said, “the office presented me with the investment that also included the London building as the most advantageous for the Holy See. Where was the crime? Did I get a personal benefit? None of it!”

Witnesses at trial, as well as Becciu’s codefendants have repeatedly testified that he was intimately involved in financial affairs at the secretariat. 

According to Raffaele Mincione, the investment manager who ultimately sold the secretariat the London building, his relationship with the Vatican began when he was recruited to manage an investment of more than 200 million euros into an Angolan oil prospecting venture — a project which Becciu personally endorsed.

“Perlasca told me that Cardinal Becciu was the apostolic nuncio in Angola for seven, maybe eight years, and this guy in Angola, Antonio Mosquito [in whose project the $200 million was to be invested] was a good Catholic guy,” Mincione has previously told The Pillar. 

“They explained to me that between them they had deep knowledge of the place, of the country.”

The origin of the money for the investment came in the form of credit lines borrowed against Church assets on deposit with Credit Suisse and BSI and was illegally obscured on Vatican departmental ledgers, as was first reported in 2019, though initially denied by Becciu. 

In an ongoing lawsuit between the Secretariat of State and Mincione before the High Court of England and Wales, lawyers for the Vatican department described Becciu as “not [to be] regarded as a witness of truth.”

Despite being legally disowned by his former department and facing more than five years in prison should his appeal prove unsuccessful, Becciu claimed on Sunday that he still enjoys considerable support among the College of Cardinals.

“I went from the ‘isolated leper’ phase to the phase when, during the trial, we began to understand that the accusations were all inconsistent,” the cardinal claimed, saying he had “received a crescendo of certificates of solidarity” from his brother cardinals.

“At the consistory I had a cordial welcome,” Becciu said, referring to a 2022 meeting of the college which Pope Francis invited him to attend, his ongoing trial and suspension of his rights as a cardinal notwithstanding, though Becciu added that he “would have liked a defense aloud” from his cardinal peers. 

In a letter to all the cardinals earlier this year, following his December conviction, Becciu claimed he was absenting himself from Holy Week liturgies in the Vatican to avoid becoming a media distraction. 

In a letter marked “confidential” sent to the Dean of the College of Cardinals but copied to an Italian tabloid website, Becciu said he “would not want to obscure the splendor of you cardinals with [his presence], stained by a heavy and unjust sentence.”

He also blamed an “insistent media pillory of planetary dimensions” for his conviction.

In his interview on June 30, Becciu said he did not know when his appeal hearings would conclude, but expressed his hope that the matter would be settled before the opening of the Jubilee Year in the Vatican in 2025: “Otherwise I fear that it would cause enormous damage to the Church and to the Jubilee itself.”

Asked if he intended to seek a papal pardon in the event his conviction is upheld and he is sent to prison, the cardinal demurred. 

“Sincerely, I don’t think about amnesty or ask for grace,” Becciu said. “I hope the Court of Appeal recognizes my innocence. Do you know I still can’t understand what I’ve been accused and convicted of?”

Appeal hearings in the case are expected to begin later this month.

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