Vatican Indicts Former Bank Head In $62 Million Embezzlement Scheme

Vatican City prosecutors have indicted the former head of the Vatican bank along with his lawyer on embezzlement charges - claiming they are responsible for losses exceeding 50 million euros ($62 million USD) on shady real estate transactions.

Former bank president Angelo Caloia, 78, and attorney Gabriele Liuzzo, 94, are charged with a series of embezzlements and self-laundering between 2001 and 2008, when the bank sold "a considerable part of its real estate assets."

Caloia and Liuzzo allegedly sold 29 Vatican-owned buildings for below market prices to offshore companies involved in the scheme, which then flipped the properties at market rates. The suspects would pocket the difference - depositing some of the proceeds into a Rome bank account that was not registered on the IOR's balance sheet, according to the order. 

The Vatican bank, known as the IOR, is joining a civil case against the pair alongside a criminal trial in the hopes of recovering some of the losses. From the AP:

The Vatican announced the criminal investigation into Caloia, the IOR president from 1989-2009, attorney Liuzzo and the late bank director general, Lelio Scaletti, in 2014 after bank officials discovered irregularities in IOR accounts and operations.

The suspects have denied wrongdoing.

Caloia and Liuzzo's trial begins March 15, while Lelio Scaletti died several years ago. 

Reuters reported in December 2014 that the Vatican's top prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, had frozen accounts owned by the three suspects containing millions in ill-gotten gains.

Last month the Vatican's civil tribunal found two other former bank heads liable for mismanagement due to bad investments. Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli were ordered to repay the institution, and the two resigned from the bank in 2013. 

After years of malfeasance at the hands of administrators, Pope Benedict XVI ordered an internal overhaul to reform IOR operations and clean up its reputation as a "scandal-plagued off-shore tax haven" according to AP.