Vatican prosecutor appeals ruling that largely threw out his fraud case but leaves cardinal guilty


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's chief prosecutor has appealed a court ruling that largely dismantled his theory of a vast conspiracy to defraud the Holy See of millions of euros. A Cardinal was found guilty of embezzlement.

Prosecutor Alessandro Didi filed his appeal earlier this week, days after a three-judge tribunal issued its verdict in a complex financial trial. Vatican's dirty laundry aired and tested the unique legal system in an absolute monarchy in the center of Europe.

While the headline of Saturday's decision focused on Cardinal Angelo Bacciu's five-and-a-half-year sentence for embezzlement, the substance of the decision made clear that the judges rejected much of Diddy's 487 page indictment, Didi had charged Becciu and nine others with dozens of counts of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, extortion, corruption, abuse of office and witness tampering in connection with the Vatican's fraudulent investment in a London property.

They had each sought a prison sentence of up to 13 years and compensation of 400 million euros. In the end, the tribunal presided over by Judge Giuseppe Pignatone fully acquitted one of the defendants and convicted the others only of some charges, while still ordering them to pay approximately 366 million euros in restitution. Gave.

In the Vatican, as in Italy, prosecutors can appeal verdicts along with defendants. Unlike Italy, both sides must file appeals before the trial judge issues written motivations explaining the ruling, though they can amend them, lawyers said.

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In the case, Didi filed a three-page motion on Dec. 19 asking the Vatican appeals court to find each defendant guilty of the entire set of charges. which he originally presentedEven though the tribunal ruled that many of the alleged crimes did not occur.

Becciu, the first cardinal to be prosecuted by a Vatican criminal tribunal, was convicted of embezzlement involving the original London investment and two tangential cases. The broker who received a payment of 15 million euros to hand over control of the building, Gianluigi Torzi, was convicted of extortion and other charges.

Enrico Crasso, the Vatican's longtime money manager, was convicted of three of the original 21 charges he faced. But he also plans to appeal, his lawyer Luigi Panella said.

"Contrary to propaganda, the Prosecutor's appellate motion shows that the Tribunal did not substantially uphold the charging formula," Panella said in an email.

Yet even for the three charges Crasso was convicted of, the tribunal sentenced him to more than Diddy's original demand, "and this somewhat overshadowed the many acquittals," Panella said.

The verdict also led to some legal efforts to understand Italy's 1889 code and the Vatican's older criminal code, based on the church's canon law, which re-qualifies or combines charges to fit other charges.

In his appeal, Diddy objected to the tribunal's refusal to allow him to interrogate London broker Torzi in prison, because Torzi never presented himself for questioning during the trial. Torzi refused to return after returning to the Vatican 10 days jail without any charges He was released in 2020 only after a judge issued an arrest warrant and wrote a memorandum to prosecutors during the investigation.

The Pope was able to detain him because of the broad powers given to prosecutors in the Vatican's legal system, as well as additional powers given to him by four secret decrees signed by Pope Francis during the investigation, which gave prosecutors the power to judge. Had allowed suspects to be wiretapped and detained without permission. Warrant.

Defense attorneys have cited those decrees, as well as prosecutors' ability to prevent discovery of evidence, as evidence for their clients. A fair hearing could not take place The only absolute monarchy in Europe where Francis has supreme legislative, executive and judicial powers, and he used them in investigations.

In a post-verdict essay, defense lawyer Cataldo Intrieri condemned the "contradictions" of the Vatican's legal system and the powers given to prosecutors, which he said resulted in an investigation and trial that "contrary to the state of the law." I was very far away from the people I adopted." ,

“The point is that a fair trial is not just court debate about evidence, which is certainly a fundamental element, but also ‘equality of arms’ in the law for access to evidence,” he wrote in the Linkiesta online daily. . "The real problem, and we understood it immediately, is the unusual concentration of power that the Pope, the spiritual head of the Holy See and the absolute sovereign of the Vatican State, gave to the prosecutors' office."

Intrier defended Fabrizio Tirabasi, a former official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, who was given the harshest sentence, seven and a half years in prison, on charges of embezzlement, extortion and money laundering. He denied wrongdoing; Other defense lawyers also announced they would appeal.

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