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Former head of Vatican hospital guilty of abuse of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital’s foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

Giuseppe Profiti, second from right, former president of Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, and Massimo Spina, right, former treasurer of the hospital, are pictured during their sentencing at the Vatican court Oct. 14. Profiti was found guilty of illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation. He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and a 5,000 Euro fine. Spina was absolved of the charges. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 euros ($5,900) on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital’s former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14.

The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment’s refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, said in closing arguments that the deal reflected “opacity, silence and poor management” in the way Vatican assets were handled.

Cardinal Bertone, who was not asked to appear in court, had said he paid 300,000 euros from his own savings for the work; however, the hospital foundation also paid the construction company 422,000 euros. Cardinal Bertone also donated 150,000 euros to the hospital because of the loss they incurred.

Bandera had been asked to provide a six-figure “donation” to the hospital foundation, according to trial testimony. Spina testified he tried to get the “donation” from Bandera, but Bandera cited financial difficulties with the bankruptcy.

It’s not the first time Profiti faced charges of financial crimes.

He had been sentenced to six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of taking bribes and kickbacks at a different job. As president of Italy’s Liguria region, he was found guilty of the impropriety when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

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Trial begins for former-Vatican hospital officials

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Two former top Vatican hospital officials appeared before a Vatican court for a pretrial hearing on allegations of embezzlement.

Giuseppe Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Massimo Spina, the former treasurer, appeared with their lawyers before Vatican magistrates July 18 in a nearly two-hour preliminary hearing, led by the presiding Vatican judge, Paolo Papanti-Pelletier.

A pretrial hearing has been held for the embezzlement trial of two former-Vatican hospital officials who are charged with embezzlement. The opening proceedings for the 'VatiLeaks' case as seen in 2015 in a Vatican courtroom. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

A pretrial hearing has been held for the embezzlement trial of two former-Vatican hospital officials who are charged with embezzlement. The opening proceedings for the ‘VatiLeaks’ case as seen in 2015 in a Vatican courtroom. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

A court clerk read the charges, which the Vatican had made public July 13: Profiti, 55, and Spina, 57, were accused of an illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation to pay Gianantonio Bandera, an Italian contractor, to refurbish an apartment belonging to Vatican City State. The apartment was used as the residence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

The indictment said Profiti and Spina extracted more than 420,000 euros for “completely non-institutional ends” by using the money to refurbish Vatican property in order “to benefit Gianantonio Bandera’s company.” It said the alleged crime was committed in Vatican City State and spanned from November 2013 to May 28, 2014, the time period that the contractor’s seven invoices were dated and paid for, according to news reports.

Lawyers for the defendants made their pretrial motions, beginning with Antonello Blasi, Profiti’s attorney.

He asked that Vatican-accredited journalists not be present in the courtroom to “avoid eventual disturbances,” according to the pool report. Journalists had made “signs of approval and disapproval” during other Vatican trials, Blasi said, and he asked the court to make a livestream of the trial available to reporters in another room.

Alfredo Ottaviani, Spina’s lawyer, agreed, suggesting that he and his client felt “a bit pressured” with reporters looking on from behind.

The Vatican prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, dismissed the motion, saying an exception would only be made in extreme cases regarding “morals or public order.” In a case like this one, he said according to the pool report, having journalists be present was “necessary” and in the “public interest.”

The defense lawyers then challenged the Vatican tribunal’s jurisdiction, saying that even though the hospital foundation has extraterritorial status as Vatican property, its address is in Italy, not inside Vatican City State proper. They also said the presumed crime occurred in the United Kingdom where the payments ended up, destined for an Italian contractor. Ottaviani also said that while the foundation is a Vatican entity, the presumed crime was attributed to subjects or persons “outside the Vatican.”

Vatican co-prosecutor Roberto Zannotti dismissed the arguments and reaffirmed that newly expanded Vatican laws approved of in 2013 very clearly define who is considered a Vatican “public official” and that there was “not the slightest debt that the alleged crime occurred while Profiti and Spina were acting as public officials, so Vatican laws applied to them.

Zannotti added that the funds were extracted from the Vatican’s procurement agency, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See; the allegation of misappropriation centers on from where the funds are taken, a Vatican account, and not where those funds eventually ended up, the Vatican prosecutor said.

After the preliminary hearing, prosecutors opened the floor to other arguments presented by the defense lawyers.

Among the arguments, Blasi requested the court hear witnesses all the same day in order to avoid “contamination,” implying public knowledge of a witness’s testimony might affect other witnesses’ accounts later.

Ottaviani argued that his client, even though he was treasurer of the foundation, had no power or authority to transfer assets, adding that a letter written by Cardinal Bertone had been submitted to the court to prove Spina’s lack of authority. The lawyer then said if the letter were not enough proof, he would like to call the cardinal as a witness.

The presiding judge, Papanti-Pelletier, said the court would make its decision on the requests at a later date and set Sept. 7-9 for a new round of hearings.

If found guilty, Profiti and Spina can face between three and five years in prison and fines starting at 5,000 euros.

According to letters released by investigative news reports, Profiti wrote Cardinal Bertone in late 2013, allegedly offering to pay for remodeling his residence using the foundation money in exchange for being able to use the top floor of the residence for work-related gatherings.

In a letter of reply the next day, the cardinal allegedly accepted the proposal, adding that he would make sure the costs were taken care of by a “third party” so that the foundation would not have to pay. However, the cardinal later said he paid the Vatican, which owns the apartment, 300,000 euros with his own money to cover the costs and had been unaware the foundation had already paid the contractor.

Mariella Enoc, current hospital president, told reporters in late 2015, “Cardinal Bertone never directly received money (from the hospital’s foundation), but recognized that we suffered a loss and, therefore, assisted us with a donation of 150,000 euros.”

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, was not be part of the trial proceedings because he is a member of the Bambino Gesu hospital’s board of directors.

 

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Former Vatican hospital officials indicted for illegal use of funds

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Vatican magistrates have formally indicted two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital on charges of illegally using funds to help finance the remodeling of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s apartment.

Giuseppe Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital until 2015, and Massimo Spina, the former treasurer, will be called to appear before Vatican judges beginning July 18, the Vatican press hall announced in a statement July 13. If the two men do not present themselves to the court on the opening trial date, they will be charged with contempt, the Vatican statement said.

Pope Francis blesses a sick child in Paul VI hall at the Vatican last year during a meeting with patients and workers of Rome's Bambino Gesu children's hospital. The Vatican announced on July 13 that two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital have been indicted on charges of illegally using funds(. CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis blesses a sick child in Paul VI hall at the Vatican last year during a meeting with patients and workers of Rome’s Bambino Gesu children’s hospital. The Vatican announced on July 13 that two former officers of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital have been indicted on charges of illegally using funds(. CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

After a more-than-yearlong Vatican investigation, Profiti, Spina and their lawyers were notified of the charges June 13 and had until July 11 to supply evidence for their defense.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, will not be part of the trial proceedings because he is a member of the Bambino Gesu hospital’s board of directors, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

According to the Vatican announcement, Profiti, 55, and Spina, 57, were being charged with illicit use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation to pay Gianantonio Bandera, an Italian contractor, to refurbish an apartment belonging to Vatican City State and used as the residence of Cardinal Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

It said Profiti and Spina were paid more than 420,000 euros for “completely non-institutional ends” by using the money to refurbish Vatican property in order “to benefit Gianantonio Bandera’s company.” It said the alleged crime committed in Vatican City State spanned from November 2013 to May 28, 2014, the time period that the contractor’s seven invoices were dated and paid for, according to news reports.

Profiti, who had been president of the hospital since 2008, resigned in January 2015, less than a year into a renewed three-year term, amid rumors of the alleged financing. The revelations emerged after Emiliano Fittipaldi, a journalist acquitted in a Vatican trial in 2016 for publishing allegedly stolen Vatican documents, published his findings in early 2016.

Based on Fittipaldi’s investigation and according to letters published by L’Espresso magazine March 31, 2016, Profiti wrote the cardinal in late 2013, allegedly offering to pay for the remodeling using the foundation money in exchange for being able to use the top floor of the cardinal’s residence for work-related gatherings.

In a letter of reply the next day, the cardinal allegedly accepted the proposal, adding that he would make sure the costs were taken care of by a “third party” so that the foundation would not have to pay.

Mariella Enoc, current hospital president, told reporters in late 2015, “Cardinal Bertone never directly received money (from the hospital’s foundation), but recognized that we suffered a loss and, therefore, assisted us with a donation of 150,000 euros.”

Cardinal Bertone repeatedly disputed news reports about the size of the apartment and its cost, and he insisted that he personally paid the Vatican, which owns the apartment, for the work done.

Cardinal Bertone was not under investigation.

Profiti had been sentenced with six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of bribes and kickbacks when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At the time, Profiti had been the head of the region of Liguria, where the cities are found in northern Italy. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

 

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