The Vatican's Finance Trial in Turmoil

October 10, 2021

After two years of investigation and a discreet start, the trial at the Vatican, known as the “London building, trial,” targeting putting 10 people on trial, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, has entered a phase of strong turbulence. It is the investigation itself that is likely to become completely invalid.

Difficult to Obtain Accusations

The first session, held on July 27, 2021, had already given rise to some concerns. The main judge of the court, Giuseppe Pignatone, had asked the office of the prosecutor Alessandro Diddi, to hand over to the defense some of the elements of the investigation that had not been communicated to them.

These items were mostly video files of the interrogation of the key witness in the whole case, Msgr. Alberto Perlesca, who, initially described as a suspect, had become a witness for the prosecution after agreeing to cooperate.

Only a summary of Msgr. Perlasca’s account was given to the lawyers, not the entire interrogation. Thus, the defense did not learn until July 3, when the indictment was published, that Cardinal Becciu was being charged with witness bribery.

While the Vatican's court proceedings require that suspects be allowed to answer charges before the trial begins, these files, however, were not transmitted in a timely manner. The reason given by the prosecutor referred to elements of the privacy of persons cited in the testimony.

On Tuesday, October 5, lawyers representing the various suspects have pleaded for the nullity of the trial, given the lack of compliance with the procedure.

Coup de Theater

Faced with this threat of nullity, the prosecutor admitted: “We may have made a mistake.” He then made the surprising proposal to take up all the evidence and re-interrogate the accused. In other words, to restart the investigation from the beginning.

This proposal was not approved by the lawyers, who considered it absurd: the law does not provide for the possibility of withdrawing submitted evidence. So they asked for a simple quashing.

President Pignatone then adjourned the meeting and handed down his sentence on the continuation of the trial the following day.

It should be noted that Diddi and Pignatone have clashed in the past for years, during one of Rome’s biggest anti-mafia trials, the “Capital Mafia.” Diddi was at that time the lawyer for one of the main defendants, while Pignatone was then prosecutor general of Rome.

On the morning of Wednesday, October 6, the court met again, with Cardinal Becciu being the only accused present.

During a hearing that lasted just twenty minutes, Judge Pignatone read an order that accepted both parties’ requests.

On the one hand he demanded partial restitution to the Office of the Promoter, of the indictment already handed over to the lawyers. Restitution limited to some of the defendants and some of the crimes charged against them. In other words, the evidence-based allegations have become invalid. Which prevents the prosecution of five of them.

On the other hand, he compelled the prosecutor to give the missing evidence to the lawyers, through the November 3 deadline.