After a Vatican City judge rejected defense lawyers’ efforts to see the Vatican’s financial trial dismissed Tuesday, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said he was “happy” that the criminal case against him would not be thrown out of court.
“Finally,” Becciu told press gathered for the final day of pretrial hearings in Vatican City, “the hour of truth has arrived.”
The cardinal, whose legal team filed several motions to dismiss the case, told reporters that he had been waiting for seven months to address the allegations against him head-on, and that he was looking forward to the next session of the trial, slated for March 17.
“Finally, I get to speak,” he said. “I’m happy.”
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 as part of a sprawling investigation into the financial dealings of the Secretariat of State, Becciu’s former department.
In July 2021, Vatican prosecutors announced charges against ten individuals, including Becciu, related to financial crimes. The cardinal is facing charges of abuse of office, obstruction of justice, and embezzlement.
Although lawyers for Becciu and several other of the accused have argued for months that the Vatican criminal and trial processes are tainted by procedural errors and papal interference, judge Giuseppe Pignatone finally dismissed more than 20 pretrial motions Tuesday, citing recent votes of confidence in the Vatican’s judicial process by other criminal courts.
The court also settled the lingering question of prosecutors’ refusal to hand over all documents and witness depositions taken in evidence during the course of their two-investigation.
Since the first pretrial hearing in July last year, prosecutors have argued that they should not be made to hand over evidence related to other, ongoing criminal investigations and said they were not obliged to hand over material which they would not be using in court as evidence — including recordings of witness statements, and information from mobile phones and computers seized from defendants.
Lawyers for the accused especially demanded access to hours of taped depositions given by Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, Becciu’s former deputy at the Secretariat of State, who has become investigators' star witness.
The prosecution argued that turning over the full and unedited recordings of Perlasca would compromise ongoing investigations and that, once they were in the possession of the defense’s legal team, they were sure to leak.
In October 2021, the prosecution did turn over hours of extra footage of recorded witness statements, albeit with some redactions, and those recordings have been steadily leaking to Italian media ever since.
Pignatone ruled March 1 that he could not compel the prosecution to hand over to defense attorneys materials which they had not introduced in court or relied upon as evidence in the case.
With the pretrial motions all dismissed, the court is set to hear evidence on the merits of the case for the first time when it next meets on March 17, at which time Becciu is expected to give evidence.
Becciu, who was made by the pope to resign his rights and privileges as a cardinal in 2020, faces questions about his role in a number of overlapping financial scandals which led to the criminal charges against him.
- Suspect financial arrangements at Becciu’s former department which led to the investment of hundreds of millions of euros with businessmen like Raffaele Mincione and Enrico Crasso, both of whom are also on trial.
- The role of Cardinal Becciu in the London property deal, and the role of Gianluigi Torzi (also on trial).
- Becciu’s use of a “private spy,” Cecilia Marogna (also on trial), who was paid hundreds of thousands of euros in Church funds, she says, to help negotiate the release of kidnapped religious sisters and to spy on the private moral failings of senior Vatican officials for Becciu.
- The authorization by Becciu of millions of euros of payments to a technology security company in Melbourne Australia during the trial of Cardinal George Pell.
- The funneling of Church funds into businesses and bank accounts controlled by members of Becciu’s immediate family.
- Alleged attempts by Becciu to intimidate Perlasca into recanting his statements to prosecutors and to destroy records of Becciu’s financial transactions.
Cardinal Becciu has repeatedly insisted that he is innocent of all charges and that he looks forward to clearing his name in open court.