Editor’s Note: If you’re wondering why this accidentally went out as a special email alert - well, that was due to a ‘user error.’ It's annoying to get too many emails, and we apologize. But hey -- at least you’re up to date on the trial now.
Vatican judges signaled in a pre-trial hearing Tuesday that they have a deadline in mind to begin the formal phase of the Vatican Secretariat of State’s financial crimes trial. In a separate court decision, an Italian judge dismissed an effort by Vatican Cardinal Angelo Becciu to sue his former deputy, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who is now a star witness in the Vatican’s criminal case.
The Vatican’s Dec. 14 pre-trial hearing focused on procedural appeals lodged by defense 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 has ordered the production of technical transcripts for the hours of video interviews conducted by prosecutors with Perlasca and other key witnesses.
Tapes of those sessions were deposited with the court by prosecutors in November with short sections edited out because, they said, they concerned separate, ongoing criminal investigations. The tapes were leaked to Italian media earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Pignatone did not rule on defense 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” prior to the formal proceedings beginning in earnest in February.
The judge also signaled a January deadline for prosecutors to conclude their re-opened investigative phase against four of the individuals charged by them in July.
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 prior to being charged.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that they had, so far, only interviewed one of the four individuals whose statements they needed to take, and it is unclear if individuals like Raffaele Mincione, will be available for questioning.
The Vatican court’s session followed a separate development on Monday, in which an Italian appeals court rejected civil claims brought against Msgr. Perlasca by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the star defendant in the Vatican trial.
Becciu, who is accused in the Vatican of abuse of office, embezzlement, and conspiracy, filed a suit against Perlasca 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.
According to leaked footage of Perlasca’s interviews with Vatican prosecutors, the monsignor 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.