Neustar is having a bummer of a year for getting involved in major political scandals.
First, its execs were linked to allegations of an attempt to show Donald Trump was involved in “collusion” with Russia, and now it’s found itself in the middle of a corruption slash child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
There don’t appear to be any concrete allegations of wrongdoing by Neustar in the latest case, which involves a lot of mud-slinging between two elderly, bickering, controversy-wracked priests.
Rather, a senior church figure previously convicted and jailed and then cleared of child sex abuse is accusing an old rival currently standing trial on corruption charges of failing to explain money transfers that were said to be destined for Neustar.
George Pell is an Australian cardinal, the country’s most senior Catholic authority figure, who was very publicly convicted of child sex abuse offenses in 2018. His convictions were later overturned on appeal by the High Court of Australia.
Angelo Becciu is an Italian cardinal who, according to the religious press, served as the Pope’s de facto “chief of staff” until he was accused by the Vatican of embezzlement and corruption related to real estate investments last year.
Claims by Pell’s supporters have reportedly circulated in the Italian press for years that Becciu had sent church money to Australia in order to negatively influence Pell’s trial. The two men apparently don’t get on.
The reports even triggered a probe, which found nothing, by Australian regulators into a then-unnamed tech company.
But Becciu testified before a Vatican court last week that the AUD 2.3 million ($1.6 million) Pell has raised questions over was in fact used to pay Neustar Australia for operation of the .catholic gTLD in 2017 and 2018.
He said that Pell himself had authorized the payments, in a 2015 letter.
The Vatican had originally hired ARI/AusRegistry to be its registry partner for .catholic — which has never actually been used — but it had been acquired by Neustar by the time of the contested payments. Neustar’s registry is now owned by GoDaddy, which manages .catholic.
Following Becciu’s testimony, Pell issued a statement calling his story “incomplete” and saying:
My interest is focussed on four payments with a value of AUD 2.3 million made by the Secretariat of State in 2017 and 2018 to Neustar Australia, two of which with a value of AUD 1.236 million were authorised by Monsignor Becciu on 17/5/2017 and 6/6/2018. Obviously, these are different payments from those of 11/9/2015 which I allegedly authorised. What was the purpose? Where did the money go after Neustar?
The word “after” in that final sentence is certainly suggestive, but Pell did not elaborate.
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