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Cardinal Becciu: Vatican court convicts former Pope adviser of financial crimes


(BBC) A Vatican court has sentenced Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former adviser to Pope Francis, to five-and-a-half years in jail for financial crimes.

Becciu, 75, was the most senior Vatican official ever to face such charges and once seen as a papal contender himself.

The trial centred on a London property deal that ended in huge losses for the Catholic Church.

He strongly denied charges including embezzlement and abuse of office.

Cardinal Becciu’s lawyer said his client was innocent and would lodge an appeal.

He was on trial with nine other defendants. All were convicted on some counts and found not guilty on others.

The trial, which exposed infighting and intrigue in the highest Vatican ranks, had been going on for two-and-a-half years.

After three judges spent more than five hours considering the verdict, Court President Giuseppe Pignatone announced that Cardinal Becciu had been convicted of embezzlement.

The others, who included financiers, lawyers and ex-Vatican employees, were accused of various crimes, including fraud, money laundering and abuse of office. They all denied wrongdoing.

“We reaffirm Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s innocence and will appeal,” stated Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, after the verdict. “We respect the ruling, but we will definitely appeal.”

The case – the first of a Cardinal standing trial in a Vatican court – was the stuff of intrigue and skulduggery. It involved allegations of financial impropriety at the top of the Vatican, cloak-and-dagger activity of the kind that has often characterised the secretive world of the Holy See.

It centred around a building not in the Vatican, or even in Rome, but a thousand kilometres away in London – 60 Sloane Avenue in affluent Chelsea, a former warehouse belonging to the department store Harrod’s.

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