Suspicion of witness manipulation shocks trial

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican text message to Monsignor offered forgiveness along with a threat: “Excuse me, Perlaska, but remember, you owe me.”

The message, one of more than 100 WhatsApp texts and other letters newly uncovered in a Vatican court last week, was filed as evidence, claiming that the Holy See’s investment in London property has suffered losses. It shocked the financial crimes trial for what it did.

The text casts doubt on the credibility of key witnesses indicted by the suspects and questions the integrity of the investigation into the London deal and others.

with evidence that Cardinal secretly recorded Pope Francisthey confirmed that the trial, originally intended to highlight Francis’ financial reforms, became a Pandora’s box of unintended revelations about Vatican revenge and conspiracies.

A trial in the criminal court of a city-state, The Holy See’s €350 million investment The former warehouse of the Harrods department store will be developed into a luxury condominium.

Prosecutors have indicted 10 people in the case, Vatican monsignor and brokers escaping tens of millions of euros in fees and commissions from the Holy See and extorting 15 million euros from the Holy See to take full control of their property. ​​claims.

Monsignor Alberto Perlasca was initially one of the prime suspects. As a Vatican official who managed the secretariat of the country’s €600 million portfolio of assets, he was closely involved in real estate transactions.

However, Perlaska changed his story in August 2020 and began cooperating with prosecutors, accusing then-Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Bechuu of investing in London and other questionable spending.

Both the lieutenant and Bechu are on trial. Perlaska did not, and his statements to prosecutors were the source of clues that formed the basis of several charges in the indictment.

When Perlasca testified against the indictment last week, some of his claims collapsed under defense inquiry. was given to Perlaska until mid-week to remember who helped.

And then came the bombshell, thanks to the text messages that prosecutors were forced to introduce into the evidence after they received them. They suggested that Perlasca wrote a note pertaining to his superiors after receiving threats and advice from a woman holding an ax against her Becciu.

Public relations specialist Francesca Chauqui previously served on the Papal Commission tasked with investigating the Vatican’s vast and opaque finances.She is known in Vatican circles. For her role in the 2015-2016 “Vatileaks” scandalwas found guilty of conspiring to leak classified Vatican documents to journalists and was given a 10-month suspended sentence.

According to the text, Chaouqui developed a grudge against Becciu. She apparently saw the investigation of the London real estate venture as an opportunity to settle the score and implicate Becciu in the allegations of wrongdoing she uncovered during the commission period.

“I am sending you this message because I knew sooner or later that moment would come,” Chaukhi wrote to Perlaska on May 12, 2020. Sorry Perlaska, but remember.

Shauki didn’t say what he wanted to say. However, other messages uncovered in court indicate that she persuaded a Perlasca friend and her best friend, Genoveffa Siffelli.

According to Ciferri’s text, the elaborate plan unfolded as follows. Ciferri wanted to help his Perlasca, so anonymously he passed on Chaouqui’s advice to him.

Chaouqui then organized a dinner at a restaurant in Rome, during which Perlasca tried to extract incriminating information from Becciu. Perlasca is led to believe that Vatican prosecutors were wiretapping the table and recording their conversation, but the recording never materialized. He provided them with detailed notes after the meal on September 6, 2020.

dinner was done 18 days ago Francis fired Betchu and stripped him of his rights as a cardinal based on information he said he had received about Becchu’s alleged financial misconduct.

Ciferri confessed the story to prosecutor Alessandro Diddi in a November 26 text, saying he planned with Chaouqui to prevent Perlasca from becoming a criminal defendant. Ciferri said she forwarded her 126 texts she exchanged with Chaouqui to her Diddi and helped Chaouqui create her August 2020 note.

The implications of Chaouqui’s alleged interference were clear to the court. Perlasca, the principal prosecution witness, may have been persuaded by someone with not-so-hidden intentions to provide presumably false testimony about Becciu and others. He boasted of working closely with investigators on the case.

Becciu’s attorney, Fabio Viglione, accused Perlasca of a “surreal” conspiracy that led to his client’s prosecution, and said Perlasca was manipulated to “undermine the truth, the credibility of the investigation, and his dignity.”

Cataldo Intrieri, a lawyer for Perlasca’s agent, Fabrizio Tirabassi, said the revelations justified the suspension of the trial and the opening of a new criminal investigation into alleged fraud, intimidation and obstruction. , the facts that are the subject of this trial have meaning,” Intrieri said.

Judge Pignatone said the trial was based more on documents relating to the London deal than on Perlaska’s testimony, and refused the defense’s call to suspend the trial. was scheduled to

When contacted by the Associated Press, Chaouqui declined to comment ahead of her court testimony.

Didi has defended the investigation, strongly denying he had any dealings with Shawki before being questioned in July, and based on texts he received from Sciferi, new allegations of possible false testimony and other potential crimes. He offered to hand over his cell phone to show he had nothing to do with Chaouqui.

“If someone boasts of having knowledge (investigations), I have to investigate,” he said.

Some defense attorneys have privately complained that Didi had evidence of Shawki’s alleged involvement in Perlaska in February 2021 but did not notify the defense. Vatican legal system. Diddi last week confirmed a call from Ciferri on February 4, 2021, mentioning Chaouqui’s name.

Didi was also contacted by Perlaska on March 1, 2022, when he filed a formal complaint alleging that Msgr. The written complaint was only filed in evidence last week. Defense attorneys said it was their first hunch that Perlasca could be a compromised prosecution witness.

“She has sent me threatening messages over the phone saying that I am in her hands and that she is the only one who can save me from a certain prison and that I cannot influence investigators. I made it clear that I can

Chaouqui was in contact with Perlasca on 26 November. She texted him after his first court appearance, suggesting they meet before he returned to the stands.

“My concern, and yours, is that my endorsement does not come up in court because it is difficult to explain the consequences of it above all,” she wrote.