Italian laywoman Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, arrives for the third hearing of the"VatiLeaks" case at the Vatican Dec. 7. Her request to have three Vatican officials testify was denied. CNS photo/Massimo Percossi, EPA

Cardinals, papal almoner will not testify at Vatican trial

By  Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
  • May 17, 2016

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican court denied a request by a defendant in the so-called "VatiLeaks" trial to have three Vatican officials to testify.

The court ruled May 14 that the three witnesses – Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major; and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner – would not be testifying on behalf of Francesca Chaouqui.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Vatican City State's penal code exempts "public officials" from having to testify.

Cardinal Parolin did, however, send a note to the court stating he had "nothing to report regarding the matter on which he was called as a witness, that is, the relationship between Msgr. (Lucio) Vallejo Balda and Mrs. Chaouqui," Father Lombardi said.

Chaouqui, Msgr. Vallejo Balda and his secretary, Nicola Maio, are accused of leaking documents about Vatican finances and financial reform to Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who are accused by the Vatican of soliciting the documents and exercising pressure on the defendants, especially Msgr. Vallejo Balda.

Msgr. Alfredo Abbondi, an office manager at the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, testified for nearly five hours May 14. He said Chaouqui suggested the prefecture's offices were bugged after "threats" were made to several employees. The Italian monsignor also said Chaouqui drove the point home when she climbed a ladder, found what she claimed was a "bug" in a fuse box and "threw something out the window."

Early in the trial, Msgr. Vallejo Balda had testified that Chaouqui had told him she was "the number two in the Italian secret service."

Although Chaouqui denied the Spanish monsignor's testimony, Msgr. Abbondi told the court that Msgr. Vallejo Balda truly believed she worked for the Italian secret service and said it seemed "she was the one who made him believe that."

Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican police, took the stand May 16 to reveal what had been found on two iPhones and a Macbook Pro belonging to Msgr. Vallejo Balda.

Fears of being spied upon apparently began shortly after the Spanish monsignor hired Corrado Lanino, Chaouqui's husband, to set up a "technological infrastructure" for the financial documentation produced by the commission, the deputy commissioner testified.

In some of the messages found on the monsignor's devices, Gauzzi said, "Chaouqui asked Msgr. Vallejo to use WhatsApp because she believed it was a secure and tap-proof messaging system."

Lanino was paid 110,000 euro ($124,500) for installing a new computer server, which was placed in the barracks of the Swiss Guard, "something absolutely abnormal given that within (Vatican City) State there are offices that can offer this type of service that guarantees maximum security," Gauzzi said.

The system devised by Lanino provided separate passwords for each set of commission documents pertaining to each Vatican office. The deputy commissioner said Lanino had access to all passwords and documentation, adding that in one instance, Msgr. Vallejo Balda asked Chaouqui for the password to a document.

"She said that she didn't remember and that she had to ask her husband" for the password, Gauzzi told the court.

Gauzzi also said several emails in Msgr. Vallejo Balda's computer revealed a connection between Chaouqui and Fittipaldi. For instance, he said, the monsignor sent Chaouqui five emails regarding property belonging to the Holy See.

Chaouqui responded that she already had those documents, but needed "material regarding property belonging to APSA," the Italian acronym for the office that handles the Vatican's investment portfolio. Those documents, Gauzzi noted, were later published in Fittipaldi's book, "Avarice."

In another email, sent Feb. 26, 2015, Chaouqui applauded an article written by Fittipaldi on financial corruption within the Vatican. However, the article, which was attached to the email, was sent one week before it actually was published by the Italian newspaper L'Espresso.

Chaouqui's lawyer, Laura Sgro, objected to Gauzzi's testimony, saying that none of the evidence presented was included in the file given to the defendants' lawyers at the start of the trial.

At the trial's 15th session May 17, Giuseppe Della Torre, head of the tribunal of the Vatican City State, agreed and requested that Gauzzi make all the documentation available to the prosecution and defense lawyers. He also gave the lawyers one week to prepare for their cross-examination of Gauzzi and scheduled the next session for May 24.

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