National Post (Latest Edition)

Vatican says it was ‘swindled’ as it lists $6B assets

Holy See weighted with scandals

- Nick Squires

ROME • The Vatican says it has been “swindled” in some of its investment­s, including a multimilli­on pound property deal in London, as it revealed that it holds total assets worth about 4 billion euros ($6.2 billion).

The Holy See took the unusual decision to release the most detailed breakdown of its finances ever disclosed, including pie charts showing its income, investment­s and expenses.

“It is possible that in some cases, the Holy See was, apart from being badly advised, also swindled,” said Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, the Vatican’s minister for the economy.

The Vatican has been mired in a scandal over the 2014 purchase of a $545-million property in Sloane Avenue in London, in which the building was reportedly bought for far more than its market value, resulting in substantia­l losses for the Holy See.

Mo n e y w a s allegedly skimmed off by intermedia­ries and the Vatican is still investigat­ing the purchase.

A powerful cardinal who has been linked to the deal was last week forced to resign over allegation­s of embezzleme­nt and nepotism, with Pope Francis taking the rare decision to strip him of his rights as a cardinal.

Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was head of the department that decides which Catholics should be made saints, has been accused of funnelling money and contracts to companies and charities run by his three brothers, but has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Compoundin­g his problems, the cardinal’s lawyer was forced to resign Thursday after posting photos on social media of himself posing on a beach in a pair of skimpy swimming trunks.

Ivano Iai said he was sorry for the embarrassm­ent he had caused with the photos, in which he was draped over rocks and lying on the sand on a beach in Sardinia.

He said it was with “great

sorrow” that he had resigned as lawyer for the cardinal and his brothers.

The debacle added to the sense of chaos within the Vatican, where Pope Francis has fought for years to introduce more transparen­cy and accountabi­lity to its convoluted finances.

In the past few months, Vatican investigat­ors have carried out raids on various department­s, including the Vatican’s financial watchdog,

in connection with the London property deal.

Computers and files have been seized and several staff members suspended.

They also arrested an Italian businessma­n who allegedly helped broker the purchase of the building in Chelsea.

The release of the 12-page financial statement, as well as an interview with Father Guerrero, appeared to be an attempt by the Vatican to

counter criticism that its finances remain opaque and riddled with corruption.

“I think that we are learning from the errors or the imprudence of the past,” he said. “The faithful have the right to know how we use the money.

“We can certainly make mistakes, or be swindled, but that is harder when we collaborat­e together,” he said.

 ?? Guglielm o Mangiapane / REUTERS ?? Giovanni Angelo Becciu was forced to resign as cardinal last week over allegation­s of
embezzleme­nt and nepotism related to a Vatican real estate deal.
Guglielm o Mangiapane / REUTERS Giovanni Angelo Becciu was forced to resign as cardinal last week over allegation­s of embezzleme­nt and nepotism related to a Vatican real estate deal.

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