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Vatican court docket hears secret recording of pope on hostage charges

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican tribunal weighing a monetary fraud case heard from an uncommon witness Thursday, when a secret recording of Pope Francis was performed to the court docket in regards to the Holy See’s funds to free a nun held hostage by al-Qaida-linked militants.

The published of the pope’s personal voice within the courtroom marked a surreal new chapter in a trial that has already seen loads of twists as Vatican judges attempt to decide who, if anybody, is criminally accountable for shedding tens of thousands and thousands of euros in Holy See property.

Vatican prosecutors launched the recording into proof Thursday, saying it was a part of a trove of fabric lately obtained from Italian monetary police who’re investigating a Sardinian charity linked to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a onetime shut Francis collaborator who is among the 10 defendants within the Vatican trial.

Vatican prosecutors revealed that the Sardinian proof has additionally been added to a brand new Vatican investigation during which Becciu is underneath investigation for alleged prison conspiracy.

In accordance with Prosecutor Angelo Diddi, Becciu and a household affiliate secretly recorded Francis on July 24, 2021, three days earlier than the Vatican trial opened, when Becciu spoke to him by cellphone from his Vatican condominium. Whereas many of the defendants are dealing with costs associated to the Vatican’s 350-million-euro funding in a London property, Becciu is on trial for alleged abuse of workplace and embezzlement in relation to his dealings with the Sardinian charity and with a self-styled safety analyst who can be on trial, Cecilia Marogna.

Within the recording, Becciu asks Francis to basically affirm that the pope had licensed the funds to a British agency that Marogna had recognized to barter the liberty of a Colombian nun who was kidnapped in 2017 in Mali. Francis, who had simply been launched from a 10-day hospital keep, was aware of the case and basically concurred, in line with a number of legal professionals who heard the recording. The tribunal president ordered journalists to go away the courtroom in the course of the playback of the recording, on the grounds that it hadn’t but been formally admitted into proof.

Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was kidnapped in Mali in February 2017 by al-Qaida within the Islamic Maghreb, which had bankrolled its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners. Throughout her captivity, the group periodically confirmed Narvaez on video asking for the Vatican’s assist.

Becciu had instructed the court docket on Might 5 that he had raised her plight with Francis and that the pontiff had agreed to spend as much as 1 million euros to rent the British agency, Inkerman Group, to seek out the nun and safe her freedom. She was finally launched final yr and met with the pope.

Whereas the recording solid a questionable gentle on Becciu for having secretly recorded the pope, it substantiated claims by Becciu and different defendants that Francis was certainly aware of, and in some circumstances accredited, among the expenditures which can be at situation within the trial. There is no such thing as a provision within the Vatican legislation for the pope to be interrogated throughout a prison trial, however protection legal professionals have stated they need to ask him what he is aware of in regards to the numerous monetary choices, and stated the audio recording bolstered their argument that the pope’s testimony is vital to the trial.

Prosecutors have accused Italian brokers and Vatican officers of a bunch of economic crimes, together with fraud, embezzlement, corruption and abuse of workplace. Within the London case, they accuse the defendants of defrauding the Holy See and of then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to accumulate management of the property. The ten defendants all deny wrongdoing.

After phrase emerged of the brand new prison conspiracy investigation, Becciu’s legal professionals late Thursday stated they knew of no such investigation in opposition to the cardinal however that regardless “he strongly asserts his innocence” and was able to make clear his place.

For the primary time, the Vatican court docket heard this week that the Holy See misplaced greater than 100 million euros on the transaction of the property alone, after it bought the property this yr for some 186 million kilos after having spent 275 million kilos to purchase it.

The Vatican official most carefully related to the deal, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, took the stand for the primary time Thursday in among the most eagerly anticipated testimony, and instantly blamed his deputy for the fiasco. Perlasca had initially been a key suspect within the investigation, however in August 2020 modified his story and is now thought-about an injured social gathering within the case.

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