Day in court announced for monsignor at the heart of Vatican financial scandals
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — A central figure in the Vatican mega trial over mismanagement of Catholic funds, Mons. Alberto Perlasca, will testify in court starting Nov. 23, Vatican judges announced on Wednesday (Oct. 19).
Perlasca, who once controlled the purse strings of the influential Secretariat of State department at the Vatican, was a key suspect of police investigations in 2018 before becoming a star witness for Vatican prosecutors.
As officer at the Secretariat of State, the monsignor had direct access to Peter’s Pence, a fund comprising donations by the faithful from all over the world and destined for the pope’s charitable works. At issue in the trial is money drawn from Peter’s Pence and used to invest and then purchase real estate in London, which Vatican prosecutors claim cost the Catholic institution well over 300 million euro in unexplained fees and commissions.
Perlasca was at the heart of the London real estate scandal, having exchanged messages with Italian financiers Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi and Vatican officials Fabrizio Tirabassi and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, who are currently facing trial, with charges ranging from abuse of office to embezzlement, to fraud and money laundering.
Perlasca answered directly to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly substitute at the Vatican Secretariat of State, the third highest-ranking role at the Vatican. Becciu is charged with embezzlement and abuse of office for allegedly funneling money derived from the Vatican and the Italian bishops’ conference to companies and organizations managed by his friends and relatives.
The gendarme Luca Bassetti, a member of the Vatican judicial police, testified in court on Wednesday that Becciu instructed Perlasca to make nine money transfers from the Secretariat of State to the bank account of Cecilia Marogna, 43, often referred to as the “Cardinal’s Lady” by media outlets.
Chat messages between Perlasca and Becciu projected in court showed that the cardinal instructed the payments to Marogna be made even in 2018, when Becciu was no longer substitute at the Secretariat of State, having been appointed by then to head the Vatican congregation charged with making saints.
Becciu and his legal team have made the case that Marogna was employed as an intermediary to negotiate the liberation of kidnapped clergy in high-risk areas. The payments were labeled as “Voluntary Contribution for Humanitarian Mission” even though the Vatican gendarmes denied in court that Marogna held any role in the institution’s intelligence operations.
According to Vatican prosecutors, Marogna was paid a total of 1 million euro to her company, Inkermann, and used the money to buy hotel and spa stays and luxury goods.
In text messages between Perlasca and Becciu, the cardinal states that he received permission directly from Pope Francis to pay Marogna and that he informed his successor as substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who was skeptical about the money transfers.
The trial will resume on Friday (Oct. 21), when judges are expected to finish hearing the testimonies of the Vatican gendarmes who conducted the investigations.