Interrogation tapes in Vatican finance trial leaked to media

A hearing in the Vatican finance trial on Nov. 17, 2021 A hearing in the Vatican finance trial on Nov. 17, 2021. | Vatican Media.

Videotapes of interrogations with a key witness in the ongoing Vatican finance trial have been leaked to an Italian newspaper.

Corriere della Sera reported in a Dec. 3 article billed as an “exclusive” that journalists at the Italian newspaper had viewed the video footage of interviews between Vatican prosecutors and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a former official at the Secretariat of State, who was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations but has not been charged after volunteering information to investigators during extensive questioning in 2020 and 2021.

The Perlasca tapes have been at the center of arguments at recent hearings in the trial to prosecute alleged crimes committed against the Secretariat of State surrounding its purchase of a 350 million euro ($404 million) investment property in London.

Prosecutors allege that the investment went sour because people in and around the Secretariat of State conspired to defraud the Vatican of hundreds of thousands of euros.

The newspaper has published on its website over 14 minutes of excerpts of the videos of Perlasca’s depositions, in which he indicates that Pope Francis authorized the Secretariat of State to negotiate with businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London deal and is one of the trial’s defendants.

Perlasca can be seen sitting behind a table in front of a wall of guns. He claims that he was “distanced” from the London deal by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, because “everyone knew I was for the reporting of those men.”

Asked why he was distanced from the deal, Perlasca can be seen pointing upward, while he says, “because the indication from above was to deal… to deal…” Another voice can be heard interjecting, “The indication [was] from the Holy Father?” To which Perlasca replies, “Sure, sure.”

Eighteen lawyers for the defense signed a joint statement Dec. 3 condemning the publication of the video recordings for creating a “parallel trial ... in defiance of the law.”

“According to the rules of the Vatican jurisdiction, the documents formed ‘in the proceedings’ (or in the investigations) cannot be published even in part until they have been read at the trial,” the statement said, noting that the leaked video recordings have not come out yet in trial hearings.

“Therefore, this disclosure appears illegitimate and we hope that those responsible for it will be identified,” the attorneys said. “We believe that the right of defense must be respected and implemented with every possible attention.”

Perlasca's statements about Pope Francis had also been made public via transcripts in a note from defendant Enrico Crasso’s lawyer to the court in a hearing on Nov. 17. The lawyer used the statement to raise questions about Pope Francis’ involvement in the deal at the center of the trial, arguing that if the pope was questioned regarding the London investment, his testimony should be considered part of the evidence.

For the defense attorney, it indicated another reason why the tribunal should nullify one of the indictments against his client.

Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone said at the Nov. 17 hearing that he would rule at the next audience, now postponed to Dec. 14, on the defense’s new request to dismiss the trial on procedural grounds.

At a previous hearing, Pignatone decided to throw out several of the indictments against a number of the original 10 defendants on procedural grounds.

While the prosecutor’s office — called the Promoter of Justice — decides whether to re-do the investigations and again present the dismissed indictments, the trial proceeds with six defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.

At the most recent hearing on Nov. 17, defense lawyers complained that parts had been edited out of the video recordings of Perlasca’s interviews, after the prosecution had finally handed copies over to the attorneys after an order by court president Pignatone.

This story was updated at 9:53 MST with the lawyers' statement.

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