Deja vu in Vatican as ‘Vatileaks’ defendant cited at trial

Nov 30, 2022, 12:33 AM | Updated: 3:04 pm

ROME (AP) — The Vatican tribunal hearing a financial crimes case had something of a déjà vu Tuesday when a high-profile defendant in a previous trial over leaked documents emerged as a key figure in advising the prime prosecution witness to cooperate with prosecutors.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi announced he had received a series of 126 text messages over the weekend that explained how key prosecution witness Monsignor Alberto Perlasca decided to change his story and cooperate with the investigation into the Vatican’s bungled investment in a London property.

The messages came from a longtime Perlasca confidante, Genevieve Ciferri, who said she had suggested Perlasca tell his story in a detailed memo, which he delivered Aug. 31, 2020, Diddi said. Ciferri said the themes that were addressed in the memo were suggested to her by Francesca Immaculata Chaouqui.

Chaouqui is a Rome-based public relations consultant who was convicted in 2016 by the Vatican tribunal in the second “Vatileaks” scandal, of conspiring to leak confidential documents to two investigative journalists. She had been working on a papal oversight commission investigating the Vatican’s finances at the time and was given a 10-month suspended sentence.

One of the transactions that the oversight commission was investigating was the London real estate deal that is at the heart of the current trial.

Perlasca was the Vatican official most intimately responsible for managing the secretariat of state’s 600 million euro asset portfolio, including its 350 million euro investment in the London property. While he was at first under investigation, his Aug. 31, 2020, memo and subsequent interrogations turned him into the prosecution’s star witness after he named names and blamed others for duping the Holy See and extorting it to get control of the building.

Prosecutors have put 10 people on trial, including a cardinal, and accused them of a host of financial crimes including fraud, embezzlement, extortion and corruption. They deny any wrongdoing. Perlasca is now considered an injured party in the case, eligible to win civil damages in the event of any convictions.

Perlasca began answering questions under oath last week and told the court Tuesday that he believed Ciferri was providing him with advice from someone she identified as a legal consultant. He said he only learned Friday that the consultant was Chaouqui.

Ciferri is due to respond to prosecutors’ questions this Friday.

Also taking the stand Tuesday was Fabio Perugia, a financial consultant tangentially involved in the case who also happens to be the spokesman for Rome’s Jewish community.

The tribunal president, Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, asked Perugia how he would feel about taking an oath by swearing on the Bible to tell the truth, as is required of all witnesses. Citing his Jewish faith, Perugia demurred and Pignatone asked him to merely tell the truth.

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Deja vu in Vatican as ‘Vatileaks’ defendant cited at trial