Vatican prosecutors have called the deal an example of a “rotten predatory and lucrative system” that took shape in Becci clock.
From the beginning Becciu has pleaded not guilty, as have most of the other defendants.
Becciu becomes the first cardinal ever charged and tried before a criminal court in the Vatican, as well as the first cardinal whose case will be tried by non-clergy. Pope Francis recently implemented a reform that deprives cardinals of the privilege of being judged exclusively by other cardinals.
The case has sparked widespread backlash, in part because the funds used to fund the London deal, some of which were allegedly taken by the defendants, come from an annual worldwide collection called “Peter’s Pence” billed for ordinary Catholics as a way to support papal charities.
The first phase of the deal began in 2014, when Becciu was still sostituto, or “replacement,” in the Vatican Secretariat of State, making him actually the pope’s chief of staff. Francis removed Becci from that position in 2018, and later fired him from his subsequent Vatican post and removed his privileges as cardinal.
Prosecutors filed the charges in a first-page 500-page indictment by CNN, backed by more than 20,000 attachment pages. Essentially, the claim is that the purchase of a former warehouse belonging to the Harrod chain of stores in London’s luxury neighborhood, Chelsea, originally planned to be converted into luxury apartments at a profit, was created by a network of lay financiers Italians with the cooperation of allies in the State Secretariat, including Becciu, for the purpose of extorting extravagant fees for transactions.
While Francesco has won praise for allowing indictments and trials to be filed, Becciu and his allies have suggested he is becoming a snowman for the failures of even higher-ranking figures in the system who stand next to Pope Francis but have not been indicted.
The London scandal is one of several that have rocked the Vatican in recent months, including revelations that a Malta-based investment fund dealing with another London property portfolio on behalf of the Pope used the proceeds to invest in film production. , including a biopsy about Elton John and the latest installment of the “Men in Black” franchise.
Tuesday’s hearing was expected to be largely procedural, with the trial likely to take place during the fall. The hearing took place in a larger meeting room belonging to the Vatican Museum than the usual hall of the Vatican Tribunal in order to accommodate an extremely large number of defendants, lawyers and spectators.
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