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Vatican releases vast network of properties ahead of graft trial

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Pope Francis (C top) delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter' Square at the Vatican on July 18, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Vatican has released its worldwide property holdings for the first time, ahead of a historic fraud trial which is set to begin Tuesday.

The Vatican published its annual budget for a key department managing property and investments on Saturday.

The 2020 budget showed that the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) owns 4,051 properties in Italy and about 1,120 abroad.

The properties do not include the Vatican’s embassies around the world.

APSA, which manages real estate and investments, owns properties as investments in upscale areas of London, Geneva, Lausanne and Paris.

One of the properties, a former Harrods warehouse in London intended for conversion into luxury apartments, is at the heart of a graft trial opening in the Vatican on Tuesday.

A prominent Cardinal, Angelo Becciu, and nine others will stand trial in connection with the purchases in London.

The defendants face charges including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

They face jail time or stiff fines if found guilty.

The alleged graft is being revealed as Pope Francis has vowed an all-out war on corruption and has increased oversight of the Vatican's finances.

Last year, Francis stripped the Secretariat of State of control over its funds, transferring them to APSA and with oversight by the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy (SPE).

Juan Antonio Guerrero, head of the SPE, said the trial would be a “turning point” in the Vatican’s credibility in economic matters and that a similar event could not be repeated because of measures put into place.

The first part of the purchase in London happened while Becciu was No. 2 at the Secretariat of State, and in charge of the purse strings.

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