Bad blood: rivalry between cardinal and assistant returns to trial over Vatican property
Vatican City – On the first day of his Vatican trial, Cardinal Angelo Becciu turned to members of the press behind him to comment on the grueling seven-hour hearing.
“I am serene, I feel calm in my conscience, I have confidence that the judges will know the facts well, and my great hope is that they will recognize with certainty my innocence,” Becciu said on July 27 afterwards. of the audience.
During the trial, however, the cardinal’s lawyers questioned the fairness of the charges against him, saying he had not been given the opportunity to make a statement to prosecutors during their investigation, while Bishop . Alberto Perlasca, the former head of the administrative office of the Vatican Secretariat of State, has gone from suspect to star witness.
According to the indictment, Perlasca, whose office and home were raided by Vatican police during their investigation, provided investigators “with valuable input for the reconstruction of certain central moments related to the case. of London property “.
The Vatican chief prosecutor has refuted allegations that a suspect was overthrown, saying it was Perlasca who repeatedly approached them to testify.
Becciu’s attorneys also argued that they had not yet received the full content of Perlasca’s testimony. Vatican judges ordered the prosecution to provide video recordings of his testimony to defense lawyers by August 10.
Unsurprisingly, Becciu, who has filed lawsuits against several news agencies for slander and / or defamation, announced that he had instructed his lawyers to file a similar lawsuit against Perlasca.
However, he also announced a lawsuit against an old enemy: Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, member of the late Pontifical Commission of Reference on the Economic and Administrative Structure of the Holy See.
For many, the reappearance of Chaouqui, who was convicted by a Vatican court in 2016 of leaking confidential Vatican financial documents, added an unforeseen twist worthy of a judicial drama or soap opera by the modern times.
According to the 488-page indictment, Chaouqui “spontaneously showed up” to the Vatican gendarmerie offices on October 28, 2019, several weeks after Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State. and the Financial Control Office, formerly known as the Financial Information Authority or AIF.
The day after the raid, Italian magazine L’Espresso published what it said was an internal Vatican police notice banning certain people from entering Vatican City State and alleged that the raid was part of a Vatican investigation into how the Secretariat of State used $ 200 million to finance a real estate development project in London’s Chelsea district in 2014.
In addition to some important details regarding the figure of His Eminence the Reverend Angelo Becciu, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, referring to the leak of information regarding the documents published by L’Espresso, said that she was certain that the leak came from from a source inside AIF, “the indictment reads.
No longer tied to the Vatican after being given a 10-month suspended prison sentence, Chaouqui remained active on social media, commenting and speculating on Vatican intrigues.
Nicknamed by Italian media as The Papessa (“The Female Pope”) – a nickname she has since adopted, sometimes tweeting the hashtag #teampapessa – the tone of Chaouqui’s statements has changed little since her trial.
She has often claimed that she was trying to help the Pope and, for this, was the victim of power games and internal conflicts between members of the Roman Curia allegedly opposed to financial reform, in particular Becciu, to whom she blamed his arrest in the leak scandal. .
In a statement made to the court during his trial in 2016, Chaouqui said that the then Archbishop Becciu “had encouraged the arrests” and that he “had pushed and wished” for the trial to end with his conviction.
His statement prompted a rare denial from Vatican spokesman Father Jesuit. Federico Lombardi, who has denied his accusations that Becciu, the former secretary of state’s chief of staff, acted “unfairly towards her”.
“It has therefore become necessary – without wishing in any way to condition the action of the tribunal – to deny, in the most absolute manner, such accusations and to declare that, since they are slanderous assertions, they are absolutely unacceptable, and liable to prosecution, ”the statement said.
Although Becciu’s lawsuit against Chaouqui is believed to be due to her 2019 statement to Vatican police, she also spoke to various Italian media about the cardinal’s current legal issues, implying that Perlasca chose not to not be the cardinal’s “fall guy”.
In a July 14 interview with Italian magazine Panorama, Chaouqui said Perlasca “faced a difficult choice: either to protect the cardinal as he did during his first interrogation, or to speak the truth to protect the interests of the Holy See and Holy See. Father.”