Vatican fraud trial set to resume with a boost for prosecutors

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The Vatican’s landmark fraud and embezzlement trial will resume on Tuesday after a long break, with the prosecution buoyed by two favorable decisions in related cases from Swiss and Italian courts.

The trial, in which several people are accused of fraud and other crimes related to the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London for 350 million euros ($400 million), remains mired in procedural disputes.

Tuesday’s hearing, the sixth since the trial began in July, will likely do little more than resolve several preliminary issues, meaning the trial won’t begin in earnest until February.

At the final hearing on December 14, which lasted just 10 minutes, court president Giuseppe Pignatone said he hoped the preliminary phase would end soon so that hearings could be held more frequently.

Four of the original 10 defendants were temporarily removed from the prosecution in October after Pignatone found flaws in the original investigation. He ordered the prosecution to repeat the interrogations because the procedural steps designed to protect the accused were not followed the first time.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecution is expected to announce which charges it intends to uphold or drop against each of the four. All 10 defendants, including a once-powerful Vatican cardinal, have denied any wrongdoing.

Lawyers for two Italian Vatican investment brokers in the London building, Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi, have insisted their clients cannot get a fair trial at the Vatican.

Mincione helped the Vatican make the original investment in 2014. Four years later, when the Holy See felt that Mincione was allegedly scamming it, it turned to Torzi to try to take full control of the building.

The Vatican has accused Mincione of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. Torzi faces charges of fraud, extortion and money laundering.

This month, the prosecution received a boost from two foreign courts that, while ruling on related cases, rejected defense claims about the alleged lack of fairness for their clients in the Vatican court system.

The most prominent defendant is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former undersecretary of state who was fired by Pope Francis for alleged nepotism before the trial began. Becciu held that position in the early stages of the deal. (Reporting by Philip Pullella. Edited in Spanish by Javier Leira)

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