Vatican finance trial: Judges order prosecutors to re-do interrogations, hand over evidence

A finance trial involving 10 defendants opens at the Vatican on July 27, 2021./ Vatican Media.

Judges in the Vatican finance trial ruled on Wednesday that the prosecution’s office needs to hand over missing evidence to the defense, while also re-doing a part of the investigation into seven of the 10 defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

The Vatican tribunal also asked the prosecutor to clarify Msgr. Alberto Perlasca’s position in the case and to communicate whether he is accused of any crimes.

Perlasca was Becciu’s former chief deputy at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. In that position, he signed off on aspects of the 350 million-euro London real estate purchase at the center of the historic trial.

Originally a suspect in the Vatican’s investigations, Perlasca was never indicted and is a star witness for the prosecution after volunteering information without the presence of a lawyer.

Judges sided on Wednesday with arguments by defense attorneys, ordering Vatican deputy promoter of justice Alessandro Diddi to make evidence available to the defense, including video recordings of four interviews with Perlasca.

The footage and other forensic evidence are due to be handed over by Nov. 3, but attorneys can request to see it and have a copy from today. The court is scheduled to reconvene for the next hearing on Nov. 17.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said on Oct. 6 that he was satisfied with the court’s decision to accept his and other attorneys’ objections to “obvious errors committed by the promoter’s office, directly affecting the effectiveness of the right of defense.”

“Our right of access to acts and documents necessary for the exercise of the right of defense has been recognized,” Viglione said. “Let us go forward certain of the absolute innocence of Cardinal Becciu and of his fidelity to the Church and to the Holy Father.”

A panel of three judges, led by tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone, also agreed on Wednesday to Diddi’s proposal at an Oct. 5 hearing to re-gather evidence, including the depositions of those under investigation.

The court said that there were procedural problems with parts of the investigation and with the interrogations of seven suspects.

This means that the prosecutor’s office will start the investigative phase over for Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who negotiated the Secretariat of State’s purchase of the London property.

Mincione was helped by longtime Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso, for whom the charges of embezzlement and fraud in regard to his management of the Centurion Global Fund, as well as charges of fraud against three companies he owns, will also need to be re-examined.

The charges of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office against Fabrizio Tirabassi, who oversaw investments at the Secretariat of State, have also been returned to the investigative phase.

Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked with Tirabassi, will be re-examined concerning charges of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office.

Becciu, the former number two at the Secretariat of State, will be re-investigated on the charge that he tampered with a witness by applying pressure to Perlasca to recant, and that he embezzled by sending Vatican money to charities run by his brothers.

Prosecutors will re-examine Tommaso Di Ruzza, former director of the Vatican’s financial authority, for embezzlement, while charges that he abused his office and breached confidentiality will go forward.

Becciu will continue to be tried for abuse of office. Defendants René Brülhart and Cecilia Marogna will also not be deposed for a second time.

The Vatican judges said on Wednesday that defendant Gianluigi Torzi’s participation in the trial was effectively on hold until he could present himself at the Vatican.

Torzi, an Italian businessman who worked with Mincione and brokered the final stage of the Vatican’s purchase of the London building, is under precautionary measures in the U.K. while he awaits extradition to Italy at the request of Italian authorities.

The businessman was arrested and sequestered for a little over a week in June 2020 after he was interrogated at the Vatican as part of the financial investigation.

Source: CNA