Judge Rejects Motion: Vatican’s Financial Trial Will Not Be Dropped

On Tuesday, March 1, the Vatican’s criminal tribunal resoundingly rejected defence motions to dismiss a landmark financial fraud case. It ruled the trial will go ahead with questioning Cardinal Becciu later this month.

Newsroom (02/03/2022 3:44 PM Gaudium Press) Judge Giuseppe Pignatone read aloud his rejection of two-dozen defence arguments from the past seven months that sought to have the charges dropped against the ten defendants. The case involves the Holy See’s bungled 350 million-euro (US$390 million) investment in a London property, though it has grown to involve other unrelated financial charges.

“Finally,” Becciu told press gathered for the final day of pretrial hearings in Vatican City, “the hour of truth has arrived. Finally, I get to speak,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Cardinal Becciu was sacked in disgrace by Pope Francis as head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in September 2020, after the pope was reportedly presented with a dossier of evidence collected against the cardinal by Vatican prosecutors. The report was part of a sprawling investigation into the financial dealings of the Secretariat of State, Becciu’s former department.

Judge Pignatone set March 17 for the next hearing. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former top Vatican official, is expected to be questioned about allegations he funnelled Holy See money to a Sardinian charity run by his brother. He and the other defendants deny wrongdoing.

Vatican prosecutors have accused the Holy See’s longtime money manager, Italian brokers and lawyers of fleecing the Vatican of tens of millions of euros in fees for the London deal and extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to get full ownership of the property.

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The defence raised objections that included Pope Francis’ own intervention in the investigation on behalf of prosecutors and complaints that the rights of the defendants had been harmed.

The defence alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Italian Constitution. Still, Judge Pignatone noted that neither applied to the case since the Vatican is not a signatory to the convention and is a sovereign city-state independent of Italy.

In his order, Pignatone clarified that the defendants could get a fair trial in the Vatican and their rights had been respected, remarking that Italy’s highest court and a Swiss court had affirmed as much in recent rulings related to the trial.

But the judge conceded he had no authority to order Vatican prosecutors to provide more evidence to the defence than they already had.

Defence lawyers have argued that prosecutors withheld most of the evidence they seized during their investigation, turning over copies of the information from only 16 of 255 cellphones, laptops and computers. The defence lawyers argued they couldn’t defend their clients without full access to the evidence.

According to Pignatone, the Vatican City State’s procedural code gives prosecutors complete discretion to decide what evidence to hand over, and it can be “all or in part.” He suggested defence lawyers ask the prosecutors directly to return the seized material that wasn’t being used, indicating the tribunal itself “has no competence to decide on things that were seized but not deposited (as evidence).”

(Via The Pillar and Crux Now)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

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