Vatican court indicts ex-Bambino Gesù chiefs (4)

'Used funds to do up Bertone apartment'

(ANSA) - Vatican City, July 13 - The Vatican court on Thursday indicted former Bambino Gesù Hospital Foundation President Giuseppe Profiti and ex-treasurer Massimo Spina for allegedly using foundation funds to pay for improvements to the luxury apartment of former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. "The Vatican is determined to go all the way" in the case, said Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
    The first hearing will be on July 18, the Vatican press room said. The pair are charged with using 422,000 euros "for completely extra-institutional purposes" in restructuring Bertone's central Roman flat.
    Unveiling the misappropriation probe against Profiti and Spina last year, the Vatican said it was in connection with expensive renovations to the penthouse apartment inhabited by Bertone.
    Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke said the probe began after allegations that the work was paid for by the foundation linked to the Bambino Gesu' pediatric hospital in Rome, confirming an earlier report by L'Espresso news magazine.
    The hospital operates in the Italian national health system but is owned and managed by the Holy See.
    Cardinal Bertone is not under investigation, Burke added.
    L'Espresso said in its report that the Vatican had launched a probe into the funding scandal after journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi documented alleged lavish spending by clergymen in his controversial 2015 expose' book, Avarice.
    Fittipaldi was acquitted in a trial in the Vatican along with another journalist in the so-called Vatileaks 2 case last year involving the alleged leaking of confidential Vatican documents.
    A Vatican former PR expert, Francesca Chaouqui, got a suspended sentence while a Vatican official said to be the chief leaker, Mons. Lucio Vallejo Balda, got 18 months.
    "Pope Francis' judges have already found evidence documenting how the renovations to the apartment were paid for by the Bambin(o) Gesu' pediatric hospital foundation," Fittipaldi wrote in the article.
    L'Espresso claimed the renovations cost a total of just over 422,000 euros and were billed not to the contractor - the now-bankrupt Castelli Re - but to a London-based holding company controlled by Gianantonio Bandera, the owner of Castelli Re and Bertone's personal friend.
    "The money destined for sick children was in actuality used for the renovations and then sent on to London," Fittipaldi wrote.
    "In addition to the seven invoices paid to the builder out of the Foundation's accounts at the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), Pope Francis' magistrates also have signed letters nailing Benedict XVI's former secretary of state to his responsibilities," L'Espresso continued.
    The magazine said it was in possession of correspondence between Profiti and Bertone suggesting the manager offered to pay for the renovations through the foundation in exchange for hosting "institutional meetings" in the penthouse apartment, and that the cardinal accepted the offer the following day.
    "Bertone's name is not cited in the magistrates' document but the Holy See will find it hard to overlook his direct involvement in the scandal," L'Espresso said.
    The cardinal has denied any wrongdoing.
    "(The cardinal) reiterates he never indicated or authorized the Bambin Gesu' Foundation to make any payment in relation to the apartment he occupies," his lawyer Michele Gentiloni Silverj said in a statement.
    The note echoed denials made at the time of the revelations in autumn 2015.
    "I used my savings," Bertone wrote in Genoa-based Catholic weekly Il Cittadino last November.
    "I have the paperwork to prove I paid roughly 300,000 euros to the Vatican governorate from my own account.
    "I later discovered that the Bambin Gesu' Foundation had made a contribution for the same purpose," he continued.
    "I rule out having ever given indication or authorised the foundation to make any payment," the cardinal said.
    Cardinal Bertone also denied living in luxury.
    "The apartment measures 296 square metres and I don't live there on my own. I live with a community of nuns who help me," the prelate told Corriere della Sera newspaper at the time.
   

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