Vatican finance trial: Defense says there are ‘omissions’ in video files

A finance trial involving 10 defendants opens at the Vatican on July 27, 2021 A finance trial involving 10 defendants opens at the Vatican on July 27, 2021. | Vatican Media.

After Italian media reported this week that Vatican prosecutors had fulfilled a court order to hand over missing evidence in a major finance trial, a group of lawyers of the defense complained on Thursday that portions of the video files of depositions were missing.

The joint statement was released on Nov. 4 by lawyers representing six of the 10 defendants facing trial on fraud and other financial charges related to the Vatican Secretariat of State’s 350 million euro ($404 million) purchase of a London investment property.

Among the lawyers who signed the statement is the legal representative of defendant Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.

The lawyers said they received news that prosecutors — also called promoters of justice — had filed “an impressive amount of recordings, spread across 52 DVDs,” but “we found that excerpts of statements were omitted from the recordings.”

“The deposited material is therefore still incomplete,” they commented.

The material included the videotapes of at least five separate interviews with Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, the former director of the administrative office at the Secretariat of State.

Perlasca, once a major suspect in Vatican investigations, has not been charged with any crimes since voluntarily submitting himself to extensive questioning in 2020 and earlier this year.

According to the defense attorneys’ statement, the videos of Perlasca’s testimony contained “omissions,” which prosecutors said were due to “investigative needs.”

Perlasca was Becciu’s former chief deputy at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. In that position, he signed off on aspects of the London real estate purchase at the center of the historic trial, which started at the end of July.

At an October hearing, judges ordered Vatican deputy promoter of justice Alessandro Diddi to make evidence from Perlasca’s interrogations available by Nov. 3. The court is scheduled to reconvene for the next hearing on Nov. 17.

The order came after the defendants’ lawyers took issue with what they considered to be significant procedural missteps by the prosecution.

In their Nov. 4 statement, attorneys again invoked arguments made in the October hearing, noting that in July, Diddi “declared himself ready to deposit all the audiovisual material,” but “on Aug. 9, he had not complied ... citing reasons of privacy.”

“Once again the defense and the court itself will not be in a position to have access to the complete material acquired during the investigations, which the court has repeatedly ordered the promoter to deposit,” they said.

The Italian news agency AdnKronos reported on Nov. 4 that more than 100 hours of video and audio files were handed over by the prosecution, of which around 2% is missing, “because it is linked to facts that are not relevant to the trial.”

At the hearing of July 27, Diddi said that Perlasca’s statements were better described as “depositions” than “interrogations,” and that in his early interviews he “had to make statements on other facts.”

He also defended the taking of most of Perlasca’s statements without the presence of his lawyer, claiming that, contrary to arguments by the defense, it did not constitute “a procedural violation.”

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