Roman Catholic Cardinal Angelo Becciu was found guilty of three counts of embezzlement and sentenced to five and a half years in prison Saturday, the result of a two-year trial into his and nine others' financial crimes within the Vatican City state. The 75-year-old Italian is the first cardinal to be tried criminally by Vatican courts since the Vatican became an independent state in 1929.
An initial investigation into a 2013 Vatican investment in an upscale London property, which did not target Becciu, revealed the Vatican lost millions by extortion and blackmail in the deal. The investigation surfaced separate revelations that Becciu, in his role atop the Vatican bureaucracy, embezzled six-figure sums to his brother's charity in Sardinia as well as to a Slovenian woman for her intelligence services.
While Pope Francis announced the trial as an act of transparency within a traditionally opaque bureaucracy, critics claim his role as absolute monarch possibly favored the prosecution. Becciu and others are expected to appeal.