Vatican tribunal 3 A Vatican judge reads out the verdict in the historic trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu Saturday. VATICAN MEDIA/AFP via Getty Images

Italian cardinal once thought to be pope contender convicted of embezzling Vatican funds, gets 5 years in prison

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A Vatican criminal court convicted an Italian cardinal once thought to be a contender for pope of embezzlement and sentenced him to more than five years in prison in what has been dubbed the Holy See’s “trial of the century.”

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 75, was the first cardinal in history prosecuted by the Vatican criminal court.

The powerful cardinal was absolved of several other charges, while nine other defendants, including ex-Vatican employees, financiers and lawyers, received a combination of guilty verdicts and acquittals in a trial that lasted more than two years.

Becciu, the Holy See’s former secretariat of state, was forced to resign last year on suspicion that he funneled Vatican cash to businesses and charities headed by his brothers.

He also oversaw a multimillion-Euro investment in a $380 million luxury property in London that was at the center of the trial.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of defrauding the Holy See and then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to acquire control of the property.

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