Cardinal may be witness in 'favours' case

Sat, Jun 19, 2010, 01:00

THE CARDINAL of Naples, Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, may shortly be questioned by Italian magistrates in relation to the alleged involvement of the Vatican’s Congregation For The Evangelisation Of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) in an investigation into the misuse of public funds.

The cardinal, the currently imprisoned former head of the Italian Office of Public Works, Angelo Balducci, and the head of the Civil Protection force, Guido Bertolaso, all feature in an investigation which is looking into allegations of impropriety in relation to the awarding of public contracts for major events such as last year’s G8 Summit in La Maddalena, Sardinia (later moved to L’Aquila), the 2009 world swimming championships and next year’s 150th anniversary celebrations of the unification of Italy.

One of the accusations made against Mr Bertolaso, a trusted aide of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has supervised the national response to events as diverse as the L’Aquila earthquake, the Naples rubbish crisis and last year’s G8 Summit, is that he may have accepted “favours” from the construction magnate Diego Anemone.

In particular, investigators believe that Mr Anemone paid the rent on a Rome city centre apartment for Mr Bertolaso from 2003 to 2007.

Questioned about the Rome apartment earlier this week, Mr Bertolaso denied that it had been made available to him by the construction tycoon, claiming rather that it had been organised by Propaganda Fide. He had been put in contact with a senior Propaganda Fide lay consultant, Francesco Silvano, by Cardinal Sepe, then head of the Vatican Congregation.

In recent months, media reports have alleged that during Cardinal Sepe’s period in charge, various “Propaganda” apartments were made available, free or for a very low rent, to a variety of public figures including politicians, lawyers and journalists.

Propaganda Fide, the Vatican department responsible for missionary works and related activities, is believed to control a huge real estate portfolio, valued at €9 billion.

However, Cardinal Sepehas reportedly said that he has “nothing to hide” and he is expected to waive his Vatican extra-territorial privilege in order to meet investigators.

Mr Bertolaso’s version of events was undermined this week by the owner of the apartment in question, Raffaele Curi, who told news agency Ansa that the rent for the apartment had been paid by architect Angelo Zampolini, a close business associate of the construction magnate Anemone.

Mr Curi furthermore said that he had “never heard” of Cardinal Sepe in connection with his apartment.