A former president of the Vatican bank has been ordered to stand trial on charges of embezzlement and money laundering, the Vatican has said, making him the highest-ranking Holy See financial official to be indicted on charges tying him to losses of more than $61 million from real estate sales.
A statement by the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion, said Angelo Caloia, 78, who was president of the I.O.R. from 1999 to 2009, was indicted on Friday, along with his lawyer Gabriele Liuzzo, 94.
A third person who was under investigation, the former I.O.R. director general Lelio Scaletti, died several years ago.
Mr. Caloia and Mr. Liuzzo have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and were not immediately available for comment.
The bank said “unlawful conduct” by the three occurred from 2001 to 2008 during “the disposal of a considerable part of the institute’s real estate assets.” It estimated damages at more than 50 million euros, or more than $61 million at current exchange rates, and said that the bank would seek compensation.
The trial is expected to start on March 15.
The Vatican’s top prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, froze millions of dollars in accounts held by the three men in December 2014. They were suspected of embezzling money while managing the sale of 29 buildings sold by the Vatican bank, mainly to Italian buyers, from 2001 to 2008, according to a copy of the freezing order.
In that order, Mr. Milano said the men had regularly underrepresented the proceeds from real estate sales in the Vatican bank’s official books. They are accused of receiving the difference between the real sale prices and the amount officially recorded, often in cash, the order shows.
Some of the proceeds were deposited in a Rome bank account that was not registered on the I.O.R.’s balance sheet, the prosecutor said.
The bank’s internal investigation into the scam began in 2013, along with an independent audit of the sale of properties that had been owned by the bank after suspicious accounting procedures under previous administrations were noted.
For decades, the bank had been embroiled in financial scandals. Thousands of accounts were closed, and last year Italy put the Vatican on its “white list” of states with cooperative financial institutions, ending years of mistrust and providing an endorsement of efforts by Pope Francis to clean up Vatican finances.
Moneyval, the monitoring body of the Council of Europe, has said in several evaluations that while the Vatican has made great strides in cleaning up the I.O.R. and other financial departments, it needs to be much more aggressive in taking cases to trial.