Former IOR president's conviction points to reform and more Vatican trials

News: Vatican Finances

This week, the former head of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison for money laundering and embezzlement. His conviction by a Vatican City court marks the first custodial sentence to be handed down in the city state for financial crimes, and could be a sign of more to come. 

On Thursday, Angelo Caloia was handed a sentence of 8 years and 11 months. He is 81 years old. 

The Vatican City tribunal, led by judge Giuseppe Pignatone, also convicted Gabriele Liuzzo, Caloia’s personal lawyer, and his son, Lamberto Liuzzo. The pair received prison sentences of 8 years, 11 months and 5 years, two months, respectively. All three plan to appeal their convictions.

The tribunal also upheld the seizure of more than 30 million euros from the IOR accounts of Caloia and Liuzzo Sr. 

Caloia led the bank for twenty years, until 2009. He was charged with having used his position to sell parts of the IOR’s property portfolio to himself and the Liuzzis at reduced prices, masking the transactions through a series of offshore holding companies. 

Caloia left the bank in 2009. He was replaced as president by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was forced to resign in 2012 after a vote of no confidence by the IOR board. He has publicly maintained he was forced from office for attempting to bring financial transparency and accountability to the institution. 

The current president of the IOR is Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, under whose leadership the IOR triggered a sprawling investigation into the financial dealings of the Vatican Secretariat of State after a request from the curial department for a loan of 150 million euros was forwarded by the bank to financial watchdogs. 

The decision by the Vatican court is significant. Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, flagged Vatican City’s failure to successfully prosecute financial crimes after a 2012 on-site inspection of its financial institutions. The most recent on-site inspection was carried out in 2020 and a report is expected in the coming weeks.

As head of the Vatican City tribunal, Pignatone is also responsible for authorizing a series of requests from Vatican prosecutors in several ongoing financial investigations, including rogatory letters to Swiss authorities, requesting Italian state cooperation in executing search and seizure warrants, and petitioning for the extradition of an Italian citizen to Vatican City. 

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Both the judge and the prosecutors from the Caloia case are involved in the forthcoming trial of  Cecilia Margona, who was employed by the Secretariat of State as an international security consultant and “fixer.” She has been charged with aggravated embezzlement.

Earlier this week, Pignatone’s court announced that a trial for Marogna and other alleged co-conspirators would begin “imminently.”