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Financial crimes trial witness named supreme court prosecutor

In a surprise move Wednesday, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca was reappointed as a prosecutor at the Church’s supreme canonical court. Perlasca was the often controversial key witness for the prosecution in the landmark Vatican financial trial, which concluded last year. 

Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. Pillar file photo.

As first reported by the tabloid site Dagospia and confirmed by The Pillar, the court was informed of Perlasca’s reappointment in a letter from Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on 16 April. 

The priest previously served in a similar role at the court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, until his office was raided by Vatican police in the early months of the investigation into financial crimes at the Secretariat of State in February, 2020.

Following that raid, Perlasca became a cooperating witness with prosecutors, giving evidence about the controversial financial affairs of the secretariat, where he was head of the administrative office until his transfer to the Apostolic Signatura in 2019.

Perlasca’s cooperation was a crucial part of the prosecution’s investigation and eventual conviction of nine of the 10 defendants charged in the case, including his former superior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who served as sostituto at the Secretariat of State until June of 2018.


Although widely reported, Perlasca’s reappointment to the Vatican’s canonical supreme court has yet to be officially announced in the Vatican’s bollettino of appointments. 

When it is officially confirmed, the appointment will represent a remarkable rehabilitation for the priest.

Among the instances of supposed corruption detailed by Perlasca was the now-infamous London property deal, coordinated through Perlasca’s office. 

According to the priest, he was in favor of referring the deal — which was subject to accusations of blackmail and extortion among several of the officials and businessmen involved — to Vatican prosecutors but his superiors did not agree.

According to leaked footage of Perlasca’s interviews with Vatican prosecutors, the monsignor also 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 geo-political analyst who claims to have worked as a personal spy for Becciu while he was at the Secretariat of State. 

On one occasion, Perlasca said, he prepared an envelope with nearly 15,000 euros in cash for the cardinal, but that he did not know to whom the money was going — only that Becciu told him the transfers had been approved by Pope Francis personally.

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

As the trial progressed, Becciu initiated a lawsuit against Perlasca for defamation in Italian court, seeking half a million euros from his former deputy at the Secretariat of State as damages for injury to the cardinal’s health and lifestyle following Perlasca’s cooperation with Vatican investigators.

Judge Lorenzo Azzi ruled that there was “no concrete harmful conduct in the plaintiff's narrative” and found Becciu’s claims of harm “completely lacking in any, albeit approximate, quantification” which would justify the damages being sought.

The court in Como ordered Becciu to pay nearly 50,000 euros in legal costs and damages.

Perlasca’s credibility and judgment attracted considerable scrutiny during the trial, after it emerged that he decided to turn whistleblower against his former Vatican department in part because of Francesca Chaouqui, a woman at the center of the so-called “Vatileaks 2.0” scandal.

The priest ended up soliciting advice from Chaouqui, who was convicted by a Vatican court in 2016 of leaking confidential information to journalists and handed a 10 month suspended prison sentence, in a bizarre series of events in which Perlasca initially believed her to be a retired Italian magistrate offering a legal opinion.

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Perlasca’s return to the Office of the Promoter of Justice at the Apostolic Signatura will strike many curia watchers as remarkable. Though he returns in a slightly diminished capacity — adjunct rather than deputy prosecutor — senior curial officials are not widely believed to hold positive opinions on his abilities as an administrator.

Although Perlasca sought to portray himself as an unwitting or unwilling pawn of unscrupulous superiors at the Secretariat of State, others offered a different version of events. 

After Becciu was promoted out of the office of sostituto in 2018, he was replaced by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who subsequently told investigators in a 2021 memo that he inherited an office in which officials acted to stone-wall financial oversight, blind-side superiors with last minute decisions, and deployed accounting sleight-of-hand to cover the true state of the department’s financial affairs.

A key statement made by the archbishop was that Pope Francis ordered a formal audit of the Secretariat of State’s financial holdings, to be conducted after the departure of Cardinal Becciu in June 2018. 

Peña Parra reported that the papal-ordered financial audit itself simply never happened. And, according to the sostituto, the person responsible for stalling things was Msgr. Perlasca.

Meanwhile, the sostituto reported that he found “serious errors” in the accounting of Perlasca’s office which “unjustifiably inflated the value of the assets managed by the Secretariat of State” by nearly a third, and showed a clear pattern of contracts unreasonably favoring the secretariat’s outside partners over Vatican interests.

For his part, Perlasca told investigators that Peña Parra sidelined him from the final stages of the London deal, and that it was he who wanted to alert Vatican authorities to the efforts to extort and defraud the secretariat.

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