Alleged witness manipulation jolts trial

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The textual content message to the Vatican monsignor provided forgiveness together with a menace: “I do know every little thing about you … and I preserve all of it in my archives,” it learn. “I pardon you, Perlasca, however keep in mind, you owe me a favor.”

The message was one in all greater than 100 newly revealed WhatsApp texts and different correspondence entered into proof on the Vatican courthouse final week which have jolted a monetary crimes trial involving the Holy See’s money-losing funding in a London property.

The texts have forged doubt on the credibility of a key suspect-turned-prosecution witness and raised questions in regards to the integrity of the investigation into the London deal and different transactions.

Along with proof {that a} cardinal secretly recorded Pope Francis, they confirmed {that a} trial initially aimed toward highlighting Francis’ monetary reforms has change into a Pandora’s Field of unintended revelations about Vatican vendettas and scheming.

The trial within the city-state’s prison tribunal originated within the Holy See’s 350 million-euro funding to develop a former warehouse for division retailer Harrods into luxurious residences.

Prosecutors have accused 10 folks within the case, alleging Vatican monsignors and brokers fleeced the Holy See of tens of hundreds of thousands of euros in charges and commissions, after which extorted the Holy See of 15 million euros to get full management of the property.

Monsignor Alberto Perlasca initially was among the many prime suspects. Because the Vatican official who managed the secretariat of state’s 600 million-euro asset portfolio, he was intimately concerned within the property deal.

However Perlasca modified his story in August 2020 and began cooperating with prosecutors, blaming his deputy and his superior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then the No. 2 within the secretariat of state, for the London funding and different questionable expenditures.

Each the deputy and Becciu are on trial. Perlasca shouldn’t be, and his statements to prosecutors turned a supply of leads that shaped the idea of a number of costs within the indictment.

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When Perlasca testified for the prosecution final week, a few of his claims collapsed underneath protection questioning. Choose Giuseppe Pignatone gave Perlasca till midweek to recollect who helped him write his first tell-all memo on Aug. 31, 2020.

After which got here a bombshell, courtesy of the textual content messages that the prosecutor was compelled to introduce into proof after he acquired them. They urged Perlasca wrote the memo implicating his boss after he had acquired threats and recommendation from a girl who had an ax to grind towards Becciu.

Public relations specialist Francesca Chaouqui beforehand served on a papal fee tasked with investigating the Vatican’s huge and murky financials. She is thought in Vatican circles for her position within the “Vatileaks” scandal of 2015-2016, when she was convicted of conspiring to leak confidential Vatican paperwork to journalists and acquired a 10-month suspended sentence.

In line with the texts, Chaouqui nurtured a grudge towards Becciu, whom she blamed for allegedly supporting her prosecution. She apparently noticed the investigation into the London actual property enterprise as an opportunity to settle scores and implicate Becciu in alleged wrongdoing she had uncovered throughout her fee days.

“I knew that eventually the second would come and I’d ship you this message,” Chaouqui wrote Perlasca on Might 12, 2020. “As a result of the Lord doesn’t permit the nice to be humiliated with out restore. I pardon you Perlasca, however keep in mind, you owe me a favor.”

Chaouqui didn’t say what she needed. However different messages unveiled in courtroom point out she persuaded a Perlasca household good friend and confidante, Genoveffa Ciferri, that she might assist Perlasca keep away from prosecution if he adopted Chaouqui’s recommendation.

In line with Ciferri’s texts, the frilly scheme allegedly unfolded as follows: Ciferri believed Chaouqui when she bragged that she was working hand-in-hand with Vatican prosecutors, gendarmes and the pope within the prison investigation. Ciferri needed to assist Perlasca, and so fed him Chaouqui’s recommendation anonymously.

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Chaouqui subsequently organized a dinner at a Rome restaurant throughout which Perlasca tried to extract incriminating info from Becciu. Perlasca was led to consider the Vatican prosecutors had bugged the desk and had been recording their dialog, although no recording has materialized. He offered them with an in depth memo after the Sept. 6, 2020 meal.

The dinner befell 18 days earlier than Francis fired Becciu and stripped him of his rights as a cardinal based mostly on info he stated he had acquired about Becciu’s alleged monetary misconduct.

Ciferri confessed the entire saga to prosecutor Alessandro Diddi in a Nov. 26 textual content during which she stated she had schemed with Chaouqui in hopes of sparing Perlasca from turning into a prison defendant. Ciferri forwarded Diddi 126 textual content messages she exchanged with Chaouqui and stated Chaouqui had helped craft the August 2020 memo during which Perlasca turned on the cardinal.

The implications of Chaouqui’s alleged interference had been clear to these within the courtroom: Perlasca, a key prosecution witness, could have been persuaded to offer probably false testimony about Becciu and others by somebody with a not-so-hidden agenda. As well as, Chaouqui bragged about working intently with investigators on the case.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, denounced the “surreal” machinations that helped result in his shopper’s indictment, saying Perlasca had been manipulated “to the detriment of the reality, the authenticity of the investigation and the honorability of His Eminence.”

Cataldo Intrieri, the lawyer representing Perlasca’s deputy Fabrizio Tirabassi, stated the revelations warrant the trial’s suspension and the opening of a brand new prison investigation for suspected fraud, threats and obstruction. “Regardless, there are implications for the info which might be the topic of this trial,” Intrieri stated.

Choose Pignatone rejected protection calls to droop the trial, saying the proceedings had been based mostly extra on documentation in regards to the London deal than Perlasca’s testimony. However he scheduled in-court interrogations for Ciferri and Chaouqui.

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Chaouqui, when reached by The Related Press, declined to remark earlier than her courtroom testimony.

Diddi defended the investigation, strongly denied having any dealings with Chaouqui earlier than she was questioned in July and introduced he had opened a brand new investigation into potential false testimony and different potential crimes based mostly on the texts he acquired from Ciferri. He provided to show over his mobile phone to point out he had no dealings with Chaouqui.

“If somebody brags about having information (of the investigation) I’ve to analyze,” he stated.

Some protection legal professionals additionally privately complained that Diddi had proof in February 2021 of Chaouqui’s alleged involvement with Perlasca however did not inform the protection, a part of broader protection complaints in regards to the peculiarities of the Vatican’s authorized system. Diddi acknowledged final week that Ciferri telephone him on Feb. 4, 2021 and talked about Chaouqui’s identify.

Diddi additionally heard from Perlasca on March 1, 2022, when the monsignor filed a proper criticism alleging Chaouqui had threatened him and claimed to be working with prosecutors. The written criticism was solely entered into proof final week. Protection legal professionals stated it was their first inkling that Perlasca is likely to be a compromised prosecution witness.

“She despatched me threatening messages by way of phone, saying I used to be in her palms and that solely she might save me from sure jail, making clear she might affect the investigators,” Perlasca wrote in his criticism.

Chaouqui was in contact with Perlasca as not too long ago as Nov. 26. She texted him after his first courtroom appearances and urged they meet earlier than he went again on the stand.

“My curiosity, and I believe yours, is that my assist not emerge at trial as a result of it will be tough to clarify above all the implications that it had,” she wrote.