Defense lawyers at a corruption trial related to the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London on Wednesday demanded that the prosecution share the contents of its conversations with Pope Francis.
The fourth hearing of the trial of six defendants, including a cardinal, centered around defense demands for more access to evidence held by the prosecution and explanations for what the defense says are indiscreetness, omissions and lapses in video tapes of interrogations.
Lawyer Luigi Panella accused the prosecution of hiding details of an interrogation while questioning Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, a former Vatican official who was first a suspect and then a star witness for the prosecution.
Panella said a video of the interrogation showed that Perlasca “looked shocked” when investigators told him that his answers did not coincide with what the pope had told them.
Panella said the prosecutions’ conversations with the pope, including when he gave permission to proceed with a raid on Vatican offices on Oct. 1, 2019, should be submitted as evidence and made available to the defence.
The prosecution said that during Perlasca’s questioning, it was not referring to private conversations but to comments the pope had made publicly to reporters about the investigation.
The trial was adjourned until Dec. 1.
The trial revolves mostly around the purchase by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington, one of the wealthiest districts in the British capital.
It started in July with 10 defendants but four were later removed while the investigation of their alleged activities continues. They may be tried separately.
Perlasca is the main witness in the case against the most prominent defendant, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a once powerful Vatican official. He was the only defendant present on Wednesday in the makeshift courtroom in the Vatican Museums. The trial is being held there the usual courthouse is too small to comply with COVID restrictions.
The prosecution has accused Becciu, other former Vatican officials or employees and outside middlemen involved in the deal of embezzlement, abuse of office, and fraud, among other charges. They all have denied wrongdoing.
The Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the London investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, an ex-Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses”.
The Vatican is in the final stages of selling the building.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)