Ten defendants are currently on trial in the Vatican Court for embezzlement involving participation in an investment fund and the purchase of a building in London.
According to Vatican News, the charges include money-laundering, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office extracting millions of dollars from the Vatican. The nearly 500-page indictment was issued in July 2021 with 30,000 pages of supplemental documentation supplied by prosecutors.
At the trial, a secretly recorded phone call between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, one of the defendants, was played to the Vatican Court.
Pope Francis was secretly recorded during a phone call with one of his former top cardinals discussing the Holy See’s payments to free a nun held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked militants in northern Africa.
In the call, Becciu can be heard asking the Pope to confirm that he had authorized payments to free the nun, who was kidnapped in 2017. She was eventually released last year and met with the pope.
Journalists were asked to leave the courtroom before the tape was played because the recording had not yet been formally admitted into evidence, but a transcript from the Italian Financial Police was published by Italian news agency Adnkronos, CNN reported.
The recording was made on July 24, 2021 — just three days before Becciu was to be put on trial for alleged embezzlement and abuse of office — and 10 days after Pope Francis had been released from the hospital in Rome for intestinal surgery, according to the outlet.
Beccui can be heard asking the Pope to confirm that he had authorized payments to self-described security consultant Cecilia Marogna, who has also been named as a defendant in the trial. Marogna was to then pay the British firm, Inkerman Group, to free the nun.
Beccui said that the payments were $363,706 USD to Inkerman Group and $519,518 USD in ransom for the nun.
The Pope told the Cardinal that he vaguely remembered the payments, but asked him to put his confirmation request in writing.