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Prosecutor makes surprise offer in Vatican fraud trial

A Vatican prosecutor has offered to essentially restart its fraud and corruption investigation into the Holy See’s 350-million-euro ($406.1 million) investment in London property to address procedural problems that The defense’s argument is so serious that they should drop the indictment.

Prosecutor Alessandro Didi made a surprise offer to withdraw all evidence and re-examine the suspects at the start of the second court session of the trial that began in July.

Didi said her office has always worked to ensure that the rights of the accused are respected and called her motion a “common sense” way to address the defense’s objections.

Lawyers for the 10 defendants have accused Didi’s office of withholding vital evidence from them and not interrogating suspects during the investigation phase, all of which culminate in the indictment. They maintain this and other alleged procedural errors should rule out the entire indictment.

Lawyers argue that such errors violate Vatican procedures and harm their ability to defend.

Prosecutors have missed the deadline to provide all evidence and have not respected a July 29 order to open the videotaped interrogation of monsignor Alberto Perlaska, a suspect-turned-star witness in the case.

The tribunal’s president, Giuseppe Pignatone, said the three-judge tribunal plans to issue an ordinance Wednesday morning to decide on a motion to halt Didi’s trial so that suspects can be questioned.

The trial relates to the Holy See’s 2013 investment in a London real estate venture that caused the Vatican tens of millions of euros in damages, most of it donated from loyalists spent on fees to Italian brokers.

Prosecutors have accused the brokers of defrauding several officials of the Holy See and the Vatican with abuse of office, corruption and other charges.

Perlaska, who ran the Secretariat of the Administrative Office of the State, was the Vatican official most involved in the London deal. He was originally a prime suspect as he had signed contracts with brokers.

But after his initial questioning, he fired his lawyer and apparently began cooperating with prosecutors. The information from his subsequent interrogation was so important to the prosecution’s case that it saved him from indictment and formed the basis for several charges against the 10 defendants.

An inquiry led to an allegation of witness-tampering against Cardinal Angelo Baciu, the lone cardinal standing trial.
The defense has only seen a summary of Perlaska’s account, not a full inquiry, and Bekiu’s legal team only learned of the witness-tampering allegation when the indictment was handed down on July 3.

Vatican procedures require that suspects be allowed to respond to charges before their trial begins.

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