Police Investigating Claims $1 Million In Vatican Funds Was Sent To Influence George Pell Trial
Australian officials are looking into claims funds from the Vatican were sent to Australia to influence the outcome of the trial against George Pell.
The Cardinal was found guilty in 2018 of molesting two boys in Victoria in the 1990s, however the High Court acquitted the 79-year-old after he spent a little more than a year behind bars. He's since flown back to the Holy City and has met with Pope Francis.
Allegations have emerged that another Cardinal could have been involved in sending a large amount of money to try and affect the way the trial against Pell played out.
Australia's financial crimes regulator, AUSTRAC, was asked about this during Senate Estimates hearing.
Chief executive Nicole Rose told Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: "Yes I can confirm AUSTRAC has looked into the matter and we've provided information to the AFP [Australian Federal Police] and to Victoria Police."
There have been allegations that Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu sent $1.1 million to a 'person or persons' in Australia. The claims haven't yet been proven and Becciu has denied any wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for the Cardinal has told the ABC: "Regarding the everlasting attention of some journalists to Cardinal Pell's trial, [Cardinal Becciu] is compelled to reiterate vigorously that he has never interfered with it in any way whatsoever.
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"Furthermore, given the apparent will of some news organisations to falsely depict an alleged, albeit non-existent, activity to taint the evidence of Cardinal Pell's trial, Cardinal Becciu will promptly resort to the Judicial Authorities to protect and defend his honour, so gravely damaged."
News Corp reports Cardinal Becciu, who has since been demoted, was 'bitter Vatican rivals' with Pell. The allegations stemming from Italy suggest the money sent to Australia was designed to bribe witnesses into badmouthing Pell.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells said at the Senate Estimates hearing that the government will help in anyway they can if AUSTRAC or Victoria Police need more information from overseas.
She added: "Given the recent demotion of senior Vatican figures...clearly from the Australian government's perspective we will co-operate with in any way shape or form we are asked to."
Pell's lawyer has called for a thorough investigation to be launched into the allegations against Cardinal Becciu.
The lawyer for the former choirboy who gave evidence against Cardinal Pell has also rejected any allegations that her client was influenced before the 2018 trial.
Vivian Waller said: "My client denies any knowledge or receipt of any payments. He won't be commenting further in response to these allegations."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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