Prosecutor concedes errors, makes offer at Vatican trial
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican prosecutor on Tuesday admitted procedural errors in his investigation into fraud and corruption over the Holy See’s finances and offered to remedy them by essentially starting over, calling into question the trials of 10 people before he really starts.
Vatican court president Judge Giuseppe Pignatone plans to decide on Wednesday whether or how the lawsuit over the Holy See’s € 350 million investment in London property can proceed after the defense argued that the The prosecution’s errors were so serious that they made the indictment. to cancel.
Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi made the surprise offer to take back all the evidence and re-examine the defendants at the start of the second hearing in a trial which opened in July. Diddi said his office had always acted to ensure the rights of the accused were respected and called his proposal a “common sense” way to address defense objections.
Lawyers for the 10 defendants accused Diddi’s office of withholding key evidence from them and failing to interview the suspects during the investigation phase on all charges that led to the indictment. They claim that these and other alleged procedural errors seriously impaired their right to a fair trial and their ability to defend themselves.
They called Diddi’s offer on Tuesday a last-ditch effort to save face and said it was absurd as there is no provision in law to remove the evidence files that have been handed over. While Pignatone could dismiss the indictment entirely, it would be a bombshell, and defense attorneys suspected he would likely try to save what can be saved so the trial can proceed.
The lawsuit concerns the Holy See’s investment in 2013 in a London real estate company that cost the Vatican tens of millions of euros, largely donations from the faithful that were spent in fees for Italian brokers.
Prosecutors accused the brokers of defrauding the Holy See and several Vatican officials with abuse of office, bribery and other charges.
Defense lawyers argued that the procedural errors throughout the investigation were so damaging to their right to defense that the charges should be dismissed. Prosecutors missed the deadline to make all the evidence available and did not respect Pignatone’s July 29 order to hand over the videotaped interrogations of the suspect who became a star witness in the case, Bishop Alberto Perlasca.
Perlasca, who headed the administrative office of the Secretary of State, was the Vatican official most closely involved in the London accord. He was originally a key suspect since he signed the contracts with the brokers.
But after his initial questioning, he fired his lawyer and apparently began to cooperate with prosecutors. The information from his subsequent interviews was so important to the prosecution’s case that it spared him the indictment and formed the basis of several charges against the 10 accused.
An interrogation led to an accusation of witness tampering against Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the only cardinal to stand trial.
The defense only saw a summary of Perlasca’s account, not the full interviews, and Becciu’s legal team only learned of the witness tampering charge when the indictment was released on July 3. Vatican procedures require that suspects be allowed to answer charges before their trial begins.
Andrea Saccucci, a professor of international law who has taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights and is not involved in the Vatican case, said it appeared the defense had legitimate complaints.
“It seems that there are several aspects which are problematic from the point of view of respecting the rights of the defense according to international standards,” Saccucci said in a telephone interview.
Although the Holy See is not a party to international conventions guaranteeing a fair trial, “it is clear that the lack of respect for these rights can invalidate a possible conviction”, said Saccucci, while posing problems to persuade the authorities outside Vatican City to execute any sentence. .
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