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A Vatican criminal court convicted an Italian cardinal once thought to be a contender for pope of embezzlement and sentenced him to more than five years in prison in what has been dubbed the Holy See’s “trial of the century.”

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, was the first cardinal in history prosecuted by the Vatican criminal court.

The powerful cardinal was absolved of several other charges, while nine other defendants, including ex-Vatican employees, financiers and lawyers, received a combination of guilty verdicts and acquittals in a trial that lasted more than two years.

Becciu, the Holy See’s former secretariat of state, was forced to resign last year on suspicion that he funneled Vatican cash to businesses and charities headed by his brothers.

He also oversaw a multimillion-Euro investment in a $380 million luxury property in London that was at the center of the trial.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of defrauding the Holy See and then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to acquire control of the property. 

The Vatican lost $100 million euros, about $110 million, on the property transaction alone.

A Vatican judge reads out the verdict in the historic trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu Saturday. VATICAN MEDIA/AFP via Getty Images
Judge Giuseppe Pignatone reads out the verdict at the conclusion of the Vatican trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine other defendants Saturday. via REUTERS
Judge Giuseppe Pignatone reads out the verdict Saturday in a Vatican court room. High-ranking Cardinal Angelo Becciu was convicted of embezzling millions of Euros and sentenced to five years and six months in prison. via REUTERS

A lawyer for Becciu said he would appeal the conviction.

In addition to his five-year six-month sentence, Becciu was fined nearly $9,000, according to reports.

The trial, which began in July 2021 shone a light on the Vatican’s finances, which Pope Francis had sought to clean up since taking over the church in 2013.

Weeks before the trial, Francis gave the Vatican’s courts the power to try cardinals and bishops who were previously judged by tribunals made up of their peers.

With Post wires

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