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Credibility of key prosecution witness questioned in Vatican monetary trial

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican’s sprawling megatrial addressing alleged monetary mismanagement and corruption amongst its prime officers encountered a brand new hurdle Thursday (Dec. 1) because the credibility of a key prosecution witness, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, was thrown into query by new data from an surprising supply.

On Wednesday, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, informed the Vatican tribunal overseeing the trial that he had obtained data that the monsignor had been manipulated into making statements within the case.

By the point Thursday’s court docket session started, an Italian information outlet had revealed that the knowledge had come from Genevieve Ciferri, a pal of Perlasca’s, who had written to the prosecutor over the weekend. Ciferri claimed that Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, a former financial official on the Vatican, had prompted Perlasca in his pretrial statements to investigators.

Chaouqui is a well-known determine in Vatican authorized circles: In 2017, she was sentenced to a yr in jail by a Vatican court docket for leaking state secrets and techniques in a scandal often called “Vatileaks.” (Her sentence was later suspended.)

Primarily based on Ciferri’s declare, Diddi requested the Vatican judges for time to research the brand new data and stated he’s contemplating costs of perjury towards Perlasca.

Attorneys for the trial’s 10 defendants, in the meantime, accused Chaouqui of “misdirection, fraud and threats” that may considerably impression their shoppers’ circumstances. They insisted that the whole thing of Perlasca’s pretrial testimony, together with elements redacted by prosecutors to guard different investigations, be launched.

The judges dominated that the trial would proceed, urging prosecutors to research Perlasca’s earlier testimony over the winter holidays. In addition they stated that Ciferri and Chaouqui will testify in court docket subsequent yr.

Perlasca headed the executive workplace of the highly effective Secretariat of State in 2018, when funds earmarked for the pope’s charitable works have been invested in high-end London actual property, a deal that prosecutors declare misplaced the church greater than 20 million euros. Initially thought of a goal of the investigation into the acquisition, he grew to become a prosecution witness, supplying testimony notably damning for his former superior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu. 

Becciu, one of many 10 defendants now on trial, is charged with funneling Vatican funds to buddies and kin. He has strongly denied the allegations.

When Perlasca testified final week, protection legal professionals highlighted what they stated have been inconsistencies in his story, and the monsignor typically stated he couldn’t bear in mind lots of the occasions on the coronary heart of the trial. At a number of factors throughout the cross-examination, Vatican choose Giuseppe Pignatone warned Perlasca that he risked perjuring himself. The monsignor struggled particularly to recollect particulars concerning his written testimony to Vatican prosecutors.

Ciferri informed Vatican prosecutors in paperwork despatched to Diddi’s telephone that she informed Perlasca what to jot down in his testimony, and that she in flip was following Chaouqui’s directions. Ciferri provided ample proof of her claims within the type of textual content messages and audio recordings. She stated Perlasca didn’t know that Chaouqui was behind the directions.

Following the directions, Perlasca informed the judges on Wednesday, he invited Becciu for dinner at a restaurant in Rome the place he secretly recorded the cardinal whereas asking him questions concerning the trial case. Perlasca allegedly handed over the recording and transcript of the dialog to Vatican prosecutors.

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Perlasca testified that he had obtained 15 messages from Chaouqui over a number of months starting in August 2020, during which, he claimed, she tried to intimidate him by “claiming to be properly acquainted with the Vatican prosecutors, the gendarmes and others.” 

“I forgive you Perlasca, however you owe me a favor,” Chaouqui wrote in a message to the monsignor, based on his testimony. “Don’t block me or you’ll seem on the newspapers.”

Perlasca stated he saved Chaouqui “at arm’s size as a lot as attainable.”

Diddi stated he had interrogated Perlasca with none information about his conversations with Chaouqui. Diddi pushed again towards the information report, which advised that the Vatican prosecutors have been behind Chaouqui’s messages to Perlasca, designed to maneuver the investigations ahead.

“I didn’t do it,” Diddi stated, “do no matter you need, you possibly can even seize my telephone in order for you.” He additionally stated that his workplace intends to guide an investigation into the matter “to keep away from every other makes an attempt at misdirection.”

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