What about those involved?
An initial investigation has spawned those involved, including one in which the once-powerful Cardinal Angelo Beccu is accused of embezzlement for donating 1 euro 25,000 euros to Vatican money to a charity run by his brother Sardinia.
He is linked to another co-defendant, Cecilia Maronha, a security analyst accused of embezzling 575,000 euros, which Bechchu considered as payment for the release of a Colombian nun held hostage by al-Qaeda militants. They both deny the offense, as do the other defendants.
In 2014, Pope Francis appointed the former Archbishop of Sydney in 2014. heads the newly created Secretariat for Economics and told him to clear the Vatican’s murky finances.
Beccu kicked out Pell’s auditors and gained the upper hand in the power struggle after Pell returned to Australia to face charges. But after Pell was acquitted in the High Court, he returned to Rome in September 2020. Pella was not involved in the current legal sensation.
Spies, spies everywhere
Maroni’s story, first described in detail last week, is a remarkable story that, if confirmed, will be a separate chapter in the history of Vatican diplomacy.
She and Bechchu say she got to the Apostolic Palace based on an email she wrote to Bechchu in 2015 about security issues. Based on her understanding of geopolitics and obvious links to Italian intelligence, she became an adviser to Vienna, then number 2 in the Secretariat of State.
According to her, Maronia has become a guide for Becchu for everything from Russian emissaries seeking the return of sacred relics to the efforts of the separatist leader of Catalonia to establish a channel of communication with the Vatican.
Becchu testified that he turned to Maroni in 2017 after the abduction of a Colombian nun in Mali, and Maronia suggested that a British intelligence firm could help free her. Beczu testified that Francis had approved the cost of the operation of up to 1 million euros and insisted that it be kept secret even from the head of the Vatican’s own intelligence.
The story suggests that Vienna, with the approval of the Pope, created a parallel Vatican intelligence operation using an Italian freelancer.
In previous testimonies, a Vatican official told prosecutors that by replacing Vienna, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra had brought Italian secret service agents to the Holy See to replace his office for errors, again bypassing Vatican gendarmes.
Monsignor Perlasco makes a cameo role
No figure in the lawsuit is as intriguing as Monsignor Alberto Perlasco, who was the chief internal administrator of money in the Secretariat of State, responsible for the Vatican equivalent of a sovereign wealth fund with an estimated assets of 600 million euros.
It was Perlasca who recommended certain investments or refused them, and it was he who signed contracts in late 2018, giving Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi operational control over London real estate. The reason for the accusation of extortion against Torsi is the claim of the prosecutor’s office that he quickly pulled the Vatican to gain control, and gave it up only after receiving 15 million euros.
At first, Perlaska was the main suspect in the case. But after the first round of interrogation in April 2020, Perlaska fired his lawyer, changed his history and began cooperating with the prosecutor’s office.
Despite being involved in all the deals under investigation, Perlasca avoided charges. Last week, the tribunal allowed him to join the trial as a victim, which allowed him to possibly recover civil damages.
Hours after tribunal president Giuseppe Pignetone recognized him as a civic party, Perlasco appeared at the tribunal without notice, sat in the front row of a public gallery and said, “I’m not moving.”
Prosecutor Alessandro Didi immediately objected, and Pinatone ordered him to leave, which he did.
Pity the Pope at all costs
Many of the accused testified that at key junctions Francis was not only informed of the problems but also endorsed them, including at a crucial moment when the Vatican had to decide whether to try to sue Torse to obtain London property, or pay him off.
Several witnesses and defendants said that Francis wanted to “turn the page” and negotiate an agreement. Prosecutors say Francis was essentially deceived by his subordinates, and they later received four secret executive decrees from Francis that gave them carte blanche to investigate how the defense violated suspects’ legal safeguards and basic human rights.
But the accusation of the Pope means an extraordinary development, because Vatican culture usually seeks to absolve the Pope of responsibility for everything that goes wrong.
Becchu explained this tradition during his testimony, referring to her Latin phrase “In odiosis non faceat nomen pontificis”, which roughly means that the Pope should not be involved in unpleasant affairs.
Bechchu answered the question of why the Pope approved financial decisions only orally and not in writing.
“I am from the old school … where you are trying to protect the Pope, to protect his moral authority, without involving him too much in earthly affairs. This does not mean not informing him, but not holding him accountable for certain decisions, ”he said.
Bechchu held on to this until Francis freed him from the papal secret so that he could testify in his own defense. Becchu then revealed that Francis himself had authorized the operation to free the Colombian nun and ordered the resignation of the chief auditor.
The week ended with the testimony of one of the deputies of Perlasca Fabrizio Tirabasi, who explained how investment decisions were made and the origin of the London real estate deal. His lawyers said Tirabasi’s testimony proved there was no crime in the deal.
“The only secret of this story is why someone wanted to hold a trial on an issue that the hierarchs of the Holy See wanted to make a deal,” the lawyers said.