Cardinal Angelo Becciù, one of 10 defendants, was accompanied by his former secretary, Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who is also being tried, for the eight-hour hearing Tuesday.
VATICAN CITY — A landmark trial relating to a London property deal that inflicted massive losses on the Holy See has been adjourned until Oct. 5, after the Vatican Tribunal upheld objections raised by the defense.
The trial of 10 defendants, including former Deputy Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Becciù, involves accusations of embezzlement, abuse of office and fraud.
Although today’s preliminary hearing was expected to last a couple of days before adjourning for the summer, the court accepted “some objections raised by the defendants, essential for the effect right of defense,” said Cardinal Becciù’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, leading to the adjournment after just the first day.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Viglione said Cardinal Becciù “renews his trust” in the court, “looks forward to the continuation of the trial, and the demonstration of the numerous testimonies and witnesses mentioned that will prove his innocence regarding every accusation.”
Cardinal Becciù, 73, is the first cardinal to be tried by a Vatican court under new rules introduced earlier this year by Pope Francis. He was accompanied by his former secretary, Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who is also being tried, and both were present for the whole of today’s nearly eight-hour hearing.
They were the only two defendants to attend the hearing, while the remaining eight exercised their right to be defended in absentia.
All 10 defendants deny wrongdoing.
Speaking at the end of today’s hearing, Cardinal Becciù told reporters he would be “obedient to the Pope who sent me to trial” and that he has “always been obedient to the Pope.”
“He has entrusted me with many missions in my life, he wanted me to come to trial, and I am here,” the cardinal continued. “I am serene, I feel calm in my conscience, I have confidence the judges will see the facts clearly, and my great hope is certainty that they will recognize my innocence.”
Cardinal Files Lawsuit
The cardinal then added that, “with great sorrow and pain,” he had instructed his lawyers to “sue for slander” Msgr. Alberto Perlasca and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui “for serious falsehoods that they have said about me and that have appeared in the trial papers.”
Viglione said the cardinal had only become aware of these “falsehoods” in the last few days. The threat of legal action follows other threatened lawsuits that the cardinal has made in recent months, mostly against Italian publications.
Msgr. Perlasca was head of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State and signed a “shared purchase agreement” for the London property on behalf of the Holy See. He has always maintained his innocence, saying that he acted on the orders of his superiors, who included Cardinal Becciù.
Chaouqui, 39, who was given a suspended sentence in 2015 for helping a Vatican official leak confidential Vatican documents, was revealed earlier this month to be a witness in this trial. She has claimed that Msgr. Perlasca, whose office was raided in 2020 before he was transferred to the Apostolic Signatura, faced either protecting the cardinal or telling the truth in the interests of the Holy See and chose the latter option. Chaouqui has claimed that Msgr. Perlasca’s testimony to Vatican prosecutors led to the cardinal’s indictment.
A Vatican source close to today’s hearing told the Register that the Vatican prosecutors’ decision not to call Msgr. Perlasca to trial confirms his innocence and that he is “indifferent to any complaint Becciù has made.” The source added that the cardinal’s lawyer “always threatens lawsuits without any foundation.”
The eight others being tried include: René Brülhart, former president of AIF, the Vatican’s supervisory and financial information authority; Tommaso Di Ruzza, former director of the AIF; Enrico Crasso, a financial broker who managed investments for the Secretariat of State for decades; and Cecilia Marogna, a woman who received considerable sums from the Secretariat of State for intelligence services.
The other defendants are Raffaele Mincione, a finance broker who allegedly made the Secretariat of State underwrite large shares of a fund that owned the London property; Nicola Squillace, a lawyer involved in those negotiations; Fabrizio Tirabassi, a note taker in the administrative office of the Secretariat of State; and Gianluigi Torzi, a broker hired to help the Holy See exit the fund owned by Mincione. Charges have also been made against four companies, three managed by Crasso and one by Marogna.
Among the objections raised by the defendants’ lawyers were a lack of documents, in particular the transcript of the interrogations of Msgr. Perlasca, nor a filed recording of those meetings; that allegations of money laundering against Crasso were not committed in the Vatican; and that Mincione had only “casually” learned of his arrest warrant, which has not yet been filed.
The deputy prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, said: “If we have made mistakes, we are ready to fix them. We respect the rights of the defense.”
Senior officials who had overall responsibility for overseeing the transaction, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Becciù’s successor, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, have not yet been summoned to the trial. Cardinal Parolin said this month he would attend if asked.