Vatican Finance Trial Goes On As Becciu Civil Lawsuit is Thrown out

In a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, Vatican judges signalled a deadline to begin the Vatican Secretariat of State’s formal phase on the financial crimes trial. In a separate court decision, an Italian judge dismissed Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s attempt to sue his former deputy, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, now a star witness in the Vatican’s criminal case.

Newsroom (22/12/2021 6:00 PM, Gaudium Press) “We are in an open construction site,” Giuseppe Pignatone told the court on Dec. 14, indicating that he hoped to start hearing witness testimony in February. The schedule will likely include four audiences per month.

The hearing, lasting only 10 minutes, was the latest in the Vatican’s historical test to prosecute people — including Cardinal Angelo Becciu. The case is connected to the Secretariat of State’s investment in a London property for 350 million euros ($396 million).

The Vatican’s Dec. 14 pre-trial hearing focused on procedural appeals lodged by defence attorneys for ten defendants indicted on allegations of abuse of office, fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and a range of other charges.

During the day’s session, chief judge Giuseppe Pignatone informed lawyers that he ordered technical transcripts for the hours of video interviews conducted by prosecutors with Perlasca and other key witnesses.

On Tuesday, Pignatone did not rule on defence lawyers’ demands for the omitted sections to be restored and said that the court would meet again on Jan. 25 for another pre-trial hearing, “hopefully the last one” before the formal proceedings beginning in earnest in February.

The judge also signalled a January deadline for prosecutors to conclude their re-opened investigative phase against four of the individuals charged by them in July.

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Next month, prosecutors will be expected to either drop the charges or refile their prosecution, having corrected their previous procedural mistakes, including allowing those accused to give on-the-record statements before being charged.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that they had, so far, only interviewed one of the four individuals whose statements they needed to take. It is unclear if individuals like Raffaele Mincione will be available for questioning.

The Vatican court’s session followed a separate development on Monday: an Italian appeals court rejected civil claims brought against Msgr. Perlasca by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the star defendant in the Vatican trial.

Becciu, accused in the Vatican of abuse of office, embezzlement, and conspiracy, filed a suit against Perlasca in an Italian court. He seeks half a million euros compensation from his former deputy at the Secretariat of State as damages such as harms to the cardinal’s health and lifestyle following Perlasca’s cooperation with Vatican investigators.

Judge Lorenzo Azzi ruled the move out based on “no concrete harmful conduct in the plaintiff’s narrative.” He found Becciu’s claims of harm “completely lacking in any, albeit approximate, quantification.” 

According to leaked footage of Perlasca’s interviews with Vatican prosecutors, he confirmed that (acting on instructions from Becciu), he helped arrange money transfers amounting to more than half a million euros to Cecilia Marogna, the self-styled geopolitical analyst claiming to have worked as a personal spy for Becciu during his time at the Secretariat of State.

On one occasion, Perlasca said, he prepared an envelope with nearly 15,000 euros in cash for the cardinal without knowing to whom the money was going. Becciu told him the transfers were approved by Pope Francis personally.

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Perlasca told Vatican prosecutors that Becciu “became very angry” with him for discussing the money transfers while demanding to know why he had not deleted the transactions from secretariat records.

(Via Catholic News Agency and The Pillar)

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