Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

Former top Catholic cardinal accused of bribing witnesses in rival’s sex-abuse case

A former top Catholic cardinal is suspected of using Vatican funds to bribe witnesses in the sex-abuse trial of his rival, Cardinal George Pell, whose conviction was recently overturned.

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 72, the Holy See’s former secretariat of state who was forced to resign on Sept. 24, is accused in a dossier of evidence compiled by Vatican prosecutors of wiring more than $800,000 to help sway the testimony against Pell’s case, The Times of London reported, citing the Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica.

Becciu, according to leaked documents obtained by the newspapers, allegedly used the payments in a bid to secure a conviction and squander efforts by Pell — who served as finance minister at the Vatican — to probe Vatican funds, according to the report.

“I categorically deny interfering in any way in the trial of Cardinal Pell,” Becciu insisted.

Pell’s push for more transparency of Vatican funds threatened to shed a light on Becciu’s alleged financial mismanagement.

Becciu, during his time as deputy secretariat of state, is suspected of funneling Vatican money to businesses and charities headed by his three brothers. He also oversaw a multimillion-dollar investment in luxury property in London that netted millions for consultants, but lost the Vatican money, according to the reports.

Pell, an Australian, in 2016 ordered an external accounting firm to audit Vatican finances — but Becciu blocked the move.

Pell was convicted by a Victoria state jury in 2018 of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne in December 1996 while he was archbishop. He was also convicted of indecently assaulting one of the boys by squeezing his genitals after a Mass in 1997.

He spent 13 months in prison in Australia before his convictions were overturned.

The High Court found there was reasonable doubt surrounding the testimony of a witness that Pell had abused him and another choirboy.

With Post wires

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