Lawyers “surprised” by Vatican prosecutor’s request in fraud trial

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A request by Vatican prosecutors to withdraw testimony in a mega-lawsuit over financial malfeasance prompted defense lawyers to ask for the case to be dismissed.

In the second session of the Vatican trial for embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of power, Vatican Assistant Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said his office decided to make the “surprise” request after “a long period of reflection “.

He asked the court on October 5 to order defense lawyers to return all court documents relating to the allegations against their clients and to allow the prosecution to resume questioning witnesses.

Diddi said the request was made in part to address defense concerns after the prosecution refused to release the video testimony of their star witness, Mgr. Alberto Perlasca, as well as the failure of the prosecution to deliver the digital and computer files related to the accusations.

Addressing the court, Diddi also criticized media coverage of the trial, which he said called into question the objectivity and fairness of the tribunal and Vatican prosecutors.

“We have always acted and interpreted the standards of the criminal court while protecting the rights” of the accused, he said.

One by one, each lawyer opposed Diddi’s request and called on the court to dismiss the case.

Clouds and pouring rain over Vatican City provided a fitting backdrop to the storm brewing in the Vatican courtroom as lawyers for the 10 defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, hesitated at the request of the prosecution; some of the defense lawyers described the decision as an attempt to impede their clients’ rights to a fair trial.

One by one, each lawyer objected to Diddi’s request and asked the court to dismiss the case.

Among the most vocal was Massimo Bassi, a lawyer representing Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official of the Secretariat of State accused of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of power.

Speaking to the court, Bassi said the request for the return of documents relating to the case was “inadmissible” and “was another example” of the prosecution’s attempt to change its interpretation of the Vatican penal code.

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He also questioned the prosecution’s refusal to provide defense lawyers with a video copy of Bishop’s testimony. Perlasca, the former head of the administrative office of the State Secretariat.

During the first session of the trial, on July 27, the lawyers argued that while they had received the summary transcripts from Mgr. Perlasca’s testimony, the documents lacked information and they had not yet received audio and video recordings of the testimony.

Responding to the lawyer ‘s argument, Diddi had declared that there was “no problem” in handing over Mgr. The testimony of Perlasca. Vatican judges ordered the prosecution to provide the videotapes to defense lawyers by August 10.

Mgr. Perlasca was first considered a possible suspect after Vatican police seized documents, computers and even floppy disks from his home and office in 2020.

According to the indictment, Mgr. Perlasca asked to speak to investigators and provided them with “valuable input in rebuilding some central moments related to the London property case,” referring to a real estate investment that ended up costing the Vatican millions. The Monsignor’s “contribution” transformed him from suspect to star witness.

Diddi said it was not easy to assemble the requested documents, which include some 300 DVDs and other digital files.

Vatican prosecutors have called on judges to revoke the order to hand over the video, arguing that disclosing it to defense lawyers would cause “potential serious and irreparable harm to the rights of those who participated in the proceedings.”

After defense attorneys objected to his request, Diddi told the court the prosecution “never said we didn’t want to give away the video,” but asked for ways to protect “privacy. third parties “involved in the interrogation.

Regarding complaints that the prosecution failed to provide evidence to defense lawyers, Diddi said it “was not easy to put together the requested documents”, which include some 300 DVDs and other digital files.

However, Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican City State Criminal Court, asked why prosecutors included evidence they were unable to provide to defense lawyers, “who have the right to obtain a copy”.

“We made a mistake,” admitted Diddi.

Pignatone said he and his fellow judges Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano will deliberate and render a decision on October 6.

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