One of the main purposes of Pope Francis’ ambitious economic reform is to eradicate corruption within the Vatican walls and to bring order to the troubled finances of the Holy See.
In the framework of this fight, which is being arduous, the Vatican Court has sentenced Angelo Caloia to eight years and eleven months in prison for misappropriation and money laundering., former president of the small state bank, known as the IOR (Institute for Works of Religion), who was in office from 1989 to 2009.
He has also imposed the same penalty on his then legal adviser, Gabriele Liuzzo, also accused by the theft of more than 50 million euros in complicity with the director, through the illicit sale of about a dozen properties. Both must also pay a fine of 12,500 euros.
The president of the court, Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, also sentenced the lawyer’s son, Lamberto Liuzzo, to five years and two months and a fine of 8,000 euros in the same case, for collaborating in the commission of the same crimes.
The three defendants have been disqualified from holding public office in the Papal State and will have to compensate the IOR and the real estate company SGIR, controlled by the Vatican bank itself, with some 23 million euros.
The Vatican justice began to investigate the case in 2014, after a complaint from the bank itself, which was presented as a plaintiff in the trial that began in 2018. The financial entity claimed that the three defendants had committed the crimes charged between 2002 and 2007 , participating in the sale of “a considerable part of the IOR’s real estate assets”, mainly luxury apartments in Rome and Milan.
According to the sentence, released by the Holy See press office, through this complex operation that has relied on a business network with tentacles abroad, they would have embezzled and then laundered more than 50 million euros.
Caloia, 81, is a leading figure in Lombardy’s Catholic financial sector and a top executive in the Italian banking system. When the investigations began, he declared himself completely oblivious to the accusations, “a victim of operations concocted by others” and had to resign from all his business and academic positions in Italy.
The other two convicted, Gabriele and Lamberto Liuzzo, father and son, are two lawyers of 97 and 55 years respectively.
It is not the first time that the Institute for the Works of Religion has ended up in the center of a financial scandal. The entity’s lawyer, Alessandro Benedetti, pointed out that this process sends a key message: “The message is that the party is over and that today there is zero tolerance for the behaviors that have looted the institute,” he said.
This has been one of the few processes that take place in the small court of the Vatican, which works in a way analogous to any civil justice. In addition to the media trials for leaking secret documents, known as the Vatileaks case, other lawsuits have been held for financial crimes, abuse of power or abuse, among other causes.
One of the last to be officiated was in 2018 against Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, the former adviser to the Nunciature in Washington who was sentenced to five years in prison for possession and disclosure of child pornography, which on the other hand is a relatively criminal offense. new in the Vatican legal system, since it was introduced by Pope Francis in 2013.
Capella is serving a sentence in the cells of the Vatican Gendarmerie barracks. Last October, the process for abuses committed within the Vatican walls began in the same court. It is the first in its history of its kind and it seats two priests on the bench for sexual assault and cover-up at the Saint Pius X pre-seminary.