Vatican court convicts ex-hospital head over luxury housing scandal | News | DW | 14.10.2017
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Vatican court convicts ex-hospital head over luxury housing scandal

The ex-head of a Vatican-run hospital was convicted of funneling a fortune to a local cardinal in a case that highlighted waste and lack of transparency at the Holy See. Pope Francis has sought to clean up the church.

A Vatican court on Saturday convicted the former head of the pope's children's hospital of "abuse of power" for diverting funds to renovate the luxury apartment of a top cardinal.

Giuseppe Profiti, the former president of the Bambino Gesu children's hospital, was handed a one-year suspended sentence by a three-judge panel. Prosecutors had asked for a three-year sentence on embezzlement charges.

Giuseppe Profiti Gerichtsprozess (Reuters/O. Romano)

The court has been hearing the case since July.

Profiti was charged with diverting €422,000 ($500,000) from the hospital foundation to fund renovations to the apartment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former second-highest official in the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI.

The hospital's treasurer, Massimo Spina, was acquitted.

The case highlighted waste at a time when Pope Francis seeks to end extravagance and opaque finances within the Catholic Church.

Read more: German 'bling bishop' avoids trial, compensation

Prosecutor Roberto Zanotti said in closing statements that the spending revealed the "opacity, silence and poor management" of Vatican assets.

An investment?

Bertone retired in 2013, shortly after Francis became pope. He received a 400-square-meter (4,305-square-foot) luxury retirement apartment that offers stunning views over St. Peter's Basilica and sits just above Francis' modest apartment.

The renovations were carried out between November 2013 and May 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the hospital funds were used to turn the apartment into a place where fundraising events could be held to benefit the hospital and were, therefore, not illegal.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (picture-alliance/ROPI/Frustaci/Eidon)

Bertone, who was not indicted, also contributed to the renovations

"Investing is not the same thing as spending," defense lawyer Antonello Blasi said in his closing statement.

For his part, Bertone has said he approved the project but that he didn't know of the hospital's payments.  He contributed €300,000 of his own funds towards the renovations, in addition to the €422,000 from the hospital.

The trial also showed that Bertone hired a construction company belonging to his friend, Gianantonio Bandera, to do the renovations and skirted around normal contracting practices.

Bandera's construction firm went bankrupt but another UK-based company with ties to his firm completed the job and was paid €422,000.

Bandera and Bertone were not indicted, but the trial and verdict could give prosecutors enough evidence to open a new case.

Bertone made a €150,000 donation to the hospital when the scandal first emerged in 2015.

cw/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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