Victoria Police says there is no evidence to warrant an investigation into allegations that Vatican funds were used in an attempt to secure the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera earlier this month claimed a rival of Pell’s, former cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, was suspected of arranging for €700,000 ($1.1 million) to be transferred to people in Australia to support the prosecution of child sex abuse charges against Pell.
Australia’s financial crimes watchdog, AUSTRAC, recently examined the reports and provided “information” to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police.
In a statement released on Friday, Victoria Police confirmed AUSTRAC had told it that money had been transferred from the Vatican “over a period of time” but appeared to play down its significance.
“They have not advised Victoria Police of any suspicious activity related to these transactions,” the statement said.
“In the absence of any other evidence or intelligence Victoria Police has noted the advice from AUSTRAC. We are not at this time conducting any further investigation.”
The AFP, the other agency AUSTRAC sent the information to, on Wednesday said it was “undertaking a review of the relevant information” but had referred aspects of this matter to the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
Italian media have linked the transfers to a turf war between forces loyal to Pell and Becciu, who was considered an opponent of Pell’s plans to reform the Vatican’s finances when he served as the Holy See’s treasurer before returning to Australia to face child sex charges.
Pell, 79, was jailed in early 2019 but was released from prison and had his convictions quashed in April this year after a successful appeal to the High Court.
Becciu’s lawyer has said his client strongly denies any interference with Pell’s trial. The allegations have also been denied by people who gave evidence against Pell during legal proceedings in Melbourne.
Pope Francis recently forced Becciu to relinquish his role as a cardinal and the head of the office responsible for appointing saints following allegations the 72-year-old misused church funds to invest in a luxury London property development.
Becciu denied any wrongdoing immediately after the September 24 firing.