Explained: Behind the Vatican's London real estate scandal

Source: APThe Vatican has set July 27th as the trial date for 10 individuals, including a former-powerful cardinal, and a papal contender, in connection to charges related to Holy Sees 350-million-euro investment into a luxury London realty venture.This 487-page indictment request was the culmination of a two-year investigation into how the Vatican had lost millions in donations from the faithful. It also revealed that the Vatican had paid fees to brokers, made bad investments and spent a lot of money on other expenses. The prosecutors also allege that the defendants are guilty of extortion and embezzlement as well as corruption.This is a breakdown of the case and the accusations, as well as some key players.What's the deal?In 2013, the Vatican Secretariat of State decided to invest 200 million euros in an Italian fund managed by Raffaele Mincione. Half of the money was put in the London building and the other half in other investments.Athena Capital's Minciones fund had lost 18 millions euros to the Vaticans original investment by 2018, according to prosecutors. This prompted the Vatican, prosecutors claim, to seek an exit strategy and retain its interest in the building in London's swank Chelsea neighbourhood.Gianluigi Turzi, another broker, helped to arrange a payout of 40 million euros by the Vatican for Mincione for shares in the building that was not already owned by the Holy See.Prosecutors claim that Torzi then conned the Holy See. Rather than creating a company for managing the building, which was under the control of the Vatican, Torzi added a clause to the contract that gave him full voting rights. Prosecutors claim that Torzi then demanded 15 million euros from the Vatican to seize control of the building.Torzi said that the charges were a misinterpretation.WHO KNEW THE VATICAN?Prosecutors acknowledged that Pope Francis knew about the deal and attended a December 2018 meeting in Rome with Torzi. One witness claims that Francis offered Torzi just compensation for turning the building over.Other high-ranking officials such as Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, and Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra were also aware of the agreement with Torzi and approved it. According to documents, Pena Parra authorized one of his deputy's to sign the Torzi contract giving him full voting rights.None of them were indicted. Prosecutors claim they did not understand Torzi's contract change and were kept in the dark about Torzi's business relationships, Minciones, and the alleged commissions other parties to the deal were earning.CARDINAL BECCIU WHO? AND HOW IS HE TIED TO THIS TIAL?Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the sole cardinal indicted, will be the first cardinal to be prosecuted by this tribunal. This is after Pope Francis amended Vatican law to allow laymen the right to judge cardinals. Becciu denied any wrongdoing.Becciu was once a powerful pontif in the Vatican. He would have been a candidate to be pope after Francis dismissed him last year from the job of leading the Holy Sees saintmaking office.Francis demanded that he resign in September. He cited a 100,000 euro donation Becciu made with Vatican money to a diocesan charity run his brother. Becciu was No. 3, in the Secretariat of State, and had the decision-making authority over offices vast asset portfolio.Cecilia Marogna, another defendant in this case, is also tied to Becciu. Becciu allegedly authorized her to embezzle Holy See funds for her intelligence work. This purportedly was to release Catholic priests and nuns being held hostage in hostile countries. Prosecutors claim she instead spent the money on luxury items.Marogna denied wrongdoing, and said she could give an accounting of how the money was spent.WHAT IS A VATICAN CRIMINAL TIAL LIKE?The Vatican City State's criminal code is based on elements of the canon law and 1889 Italian legal codes. The code has been updated by the pope with a variety of financial crimes in recent years to address the misconduct allegations in Saturday's indictment.As part of the Holy Sees participation to the Council of Europes Moneyval process, which aims at helping countries combat money laundering and financing terrorism, the Vatican tribunal was under pressure to bring criminal charges against financial criminals.In an effort to get rid of its reputation as a corrupt, offshore tax haven, the Vatican joined the Moneyval evaluation program a decade ago.Due to the fact that the usual criminal tribunal is too small for defendants and their attorneys, the Vatican has set up a new courtroom in the Vatican Museums. The defendants could be sentenced to jail, fines, or both if they are convicted.