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Vatican consultant ‘admitted leaking documents to author’, trial hears

Francesca Chaouqui pictured at the Vatican (AP)

A former consultant to a pontifical commission who denied to a Vatican court that she leaked documents about the Vatican’s financial reform to an Italian journalist had admitted to sending the documents when she was first interrogated, a Vatican policeman has claimed.

Stefano DeSantis, an officer investigating the leaking of the documents, testified on May 24 that Francesca Chaouqui told Vatican police officials that she sent documents regarding the Vatican Asset Management (VAM) to Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of Merchants in the Temple.

“We never assumed that she gave the documents, she admitted to it,” DeSantis told the court.

Chaouqui is on trial, along with Mgr Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Nicola Maio, the monsignor’s former assistant, for “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests of the Holy See and (Vatican City) State.”

Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of Avarice, are accused of “soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Mgr) Vallejo Balda,” to obtain the documents.

The trial session on May 24 began with the cross-examination of Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican police, by the defendants’ lawyers regarding his testimony on May 16.

Gauzzi revealed the contents found on two iPhones and a Macbook Pro belonging to Mgr Vallejo Balda. In some of the messages found on the monsignor’s devices, Gauzzi said, “Chaouqui asked Mgr Vallejo to use WhatsApp because she believed it was a secure and tap-proof messaging system.”

When asked by Laura Sgro, Chaouqui’s lawyer, about the examination of the chats between Chaouqui and Mgr Vallejo Balda, Gauzzi stated that the police saw the message exchange on the Spanish monsignor’s phone.

Chaouqui, he added, deleted the messaging application from her phone before handing it over to the Vatican’s IT experts as part of the investigation.

However, because WhatsApp is connected to a person’s phone number, the police are certain the messages were between Mgr Vallejo Balda and Chaouqui even though she deleted the app from her phone, Gauzzi said.

Regarding Chaouqui’s initial confession of sending Nuzzi the documents, DeSantis told the court that she exhibited “exemplary behaviour” when she gave the Vatican police her formal statement and even made clarifications or specifications in her formal declaration.