By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY (AP) —
A prosecutor for the Vatican offered Tuesday to essentially restart his fraud and corruption investigation into the Holy See’s 350 million-euro ($406.1 million) investment in a London property to remedy procedural problems that the defense argued are so grave they should void the indictment.
Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi made the surprise offer to take back all the evidence and to re-question the suspects at the start of the second court session of a trial that opened in July. Diddi said his office has always acted to ensure that the rights of the accused were respected and called his proposal a “common sense” way to address the defense objections.
Lawyers for the 10 defendants have accused Diddi’s office of withholding key pieces of evidence from them and not interrogating suspects during the investigative phase about all the accusations that ended up in the indictment. They maintain those and other alleged procedural errors should get the entire indictment thrown out.
The lawyers argue that such errors violate Vatican procedures and harmed their ability to mount a defense. Prosecutors have missed deadlines to make available all evidence and haven’t respected a July 29 order to turn over videotaped interrogations of the suspect-turned-star witness in the case, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca.
A three-judge tribunal plans to issue an ordinance Wednesday morning to rule on Diddi’s offer to pause the trial so the suspects can be interrogated, Tribunal President Giuseppe Pignatone said.
The trial concerns the Holy See’s 2013 investment in a London real estate venture that lost the Vatican tens of millions of euros, much of it donations from the faithful that were spent on fees to Italian brokers.
Prosecutors have accused the brokers of defrauding the Holy See, and several Vatican officials of abuse of office, corruption and other charges.
Perlasca, who ran the Secretariat of State’s administrative office, was the Vatican official most intimately involved in the London deal. He originally was a key suspect since he signed the contracts with the brokers.
But after his initial interrogation, he fired his lawyer and apparently began cooperating with prosecutors. The information from his subsequent interrogations was so important to the prosecution’s case that it spared him indictment and formed the basis of several charges against the 10 defendants.
One interrogation led to a witness-tampering charge against Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the lone cardinal standing trial.
The defense has only seen a summary of Perlasca’s account, not the full interrogations, and Becciu’s legal team only learned of the witness-tampering accusation when the indictment was handed down on July 3. Vatican procedures require suspects to be allowed to respond to accusations before their trial begins.
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