Vatican Prosecutor Offers to Restart Fraud Investigation During Trial, Stunning Court

A Vatican prosecutor on Tuesday offered to restart the fraud and corruption probe into the Holy See's $406 million investment in a London property, the Associated Press reported.

The offer, which stunned the court, came after the defense complained of serious procedural problems in the investigation that it said warranted the indictment being thrown out altogether.

The 10 defendants' lawyers accused Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi's office of withholding important evidence and not questioning suspects amid the investigation on the allegations detailed in the indictment, the AP reported. This accusation of failure and others related to the investigation's procedures led the defense to request that the entire indictment be discarded.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said that he would be willing to rescind all of the presented evidence and re-question suspects at the commencement of the trial's second court session. The offer to restart, Diddi said, was a "common sense" way to respect the defense's complaints and for his office to continue to respect the rights of the accused.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Vatican Investigation
A Vatican prosecutor offered to restart a trial after defense lawyers made allegations of procedural errors in an investigation where 10 people are on trial, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on finance-related charges. Becciu talks to journalists during a press conference in Rome on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Gregorio Borgia/AP Photo

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.

Vatican Investigation Ongoing
The second court session of a trial regarding the Holy See's 2013 investment into a London property that lost the Vatican tens of millions of euros recently commenced. Pope Francis delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican on October 03, 2021. Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images