Top Vatican Bank man to stand trial over €50-m property scam
Angelo Caloia, 78, above – a former President of the Vatican Bank – is to be tried on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.
According to this report, Caloia is highest ranking Holy See financial official to be hit with criminal charges – and his legal counsel Gabriele Liuzzo, 94, has also been indicted.
In naming Caloia and Liuzzo, the bank – officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) – said in a statement that the pair, plus a third person now dead had engaged in “unlawful conduct” between 2001 and 2008. In this period they had sold off:
A considerable part of the institute’s real estate assets.
The third person who was originally under investigation was former IOR Director General Lelio Scaletti who died several years ago.
Caloia and Liuzzo have both repeatedly denied wrongdoing. They were not immediately available for comment last Friday.
The bank claims that it had suffered lossses estimated to be more than 50 million euro, or about £44.6 million, and that the IOR would be seeking recompense. The trial is due to start on March 15.
Reuters reported exclusively in December 2014 that the Vatican’s top prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, had frozen around €16-m (£14.2-m) in accounts held by the three men.
They were suspected of embezzling money while managing the sale of 29 buildings sold by the Vatican bank to mainly Italian buyers between 2001 and 2008, according to a copy of the freezing order reviewed by Reuters at the time.
In the freezing order, Milano said the men regularly under-represented the proceeds from real estate sales in the Vatican bank’s official books. The men allegedly received the difference between the real sale prices and the amount officially recorded separately and often in cash, according to the order.
Some of the proceeds were deposited in a Rome bank account that was not registered on the IOR’s balance sheet, the prosecutor said.
The bank’s internal investigation into the alleged scam begun in 2013 by then-president Ernst von Freyberg, a German businessman.
Freyberg commissioned an independent audit of the sale of properties that had been owned by the bank after noting suspicious accounting procedures under previous administrations.
Freyberg, who was President until 2014, began an overhaul of the bank, which for decades was embroiled in numerous financial scandals.
Thousands of accounts were closed and last year Italy put the Vatican on its “white list” of states with cooperative financial institutions, ending years of mistrust and providing an endorsement of efforts by Pope Francis to clean up finances.
Moneyval, the monitoring body of the Council of Europe, has said in several evaluations that while the Vatican has made great strides in cleaning up the IOR and other financial departments, it needed to be much more aggressive in bringing cases to trial.
Hat tip: Antony Niall