Angelo Caloia, the former president of the Vatican bank (also known as the IOR), and his Italian lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, have been indicted by prosecutors in the Vatican on charges of embezzlement.
According to a report in the Associated Press, the two are being blamed for more than 50 million euros of losses in real estate sales. Their trial is slated to begin on March 15, reported the news service, noting that a third suspect passed away while being investigated.
According to the AP, the Institute for Religious Works reported that Caloia and Luizzo were charged with embezzlement and self-laundering between 2001 and 2008. During that time, the bank disposed of a “considerable” portion of the real estate assets. As part of the alleged scam, the suspects sold the real estate at prices that undervalued the Vatican-owned real estate to offshore companies, which then resold the properties at the current market rate. The suspects then received the profit from the difference, a source familiar with the investigation told the AP.
Along with the criminal trial, the IOR is also joining a civil case in an attempt to recoup some of its losses.
The investigation of Caloia and Liuzzo started in 2014 after the Vatican bank officials noticed the real estate irregularities. Both suspects have denied any wrongdoing.
The start of the trial comes on the heels of the Vatican’s civil tribunal findings last month that two other former heads of the bank, Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, were found liable for mismanaging investments during their stints at the bank. The two were ordered to pay back the bank, noted the report.
Launched by Pope Benedict XVI, the IOR has been engaged in a massive overhaul of its operations in an effort to improve its reputation as an offshore tax haven plagued by scandal and corruption.