Journalist deflates accusation at Vatican financial trial

ROME (AP) — An Italian journalist on Wednesday deflated an accusation in the Vatican’s sprawling financial trial, as he disputed prosecutors’ claims about the source of a document concerning the Vatican’s 350 million euro investment in a London property.

Investigative journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi was called to testify by defense lawyers representing Tommaso Di Ruzza, the former head of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency. Vatican prosecutors accused Di Ruzza of having given Fittipaldi a copy of a contract related to the London deal, in violation of Vatican confidentiality laws.

Fittipaldi, then a reporter at L’Espresso magazine and now with the Domani daily, had published a screenshot of the contract on Oct. 1, 2019, just as the Vatican investigation into the London deal was heating up.

Prosecutors ultimately charged 10 people, alleging that Vatican officials, Italian brokers and others fleeced the Holy See of tens of millions of euros and then extorted the Vatican of 15 million euros to hand over control of the London property. All 10 have denied wrongdoing.

Fittipaldi told the court on Wednesday that Di Ruzza didn’t give him the contract and had nothing to do with the article.

“I exclude it,” Fittipaldi said. While recalling that journalists don’t reveal their sources, Fittipaldi told the court he had asked the person who did show him the contract if he could reveal his identity and said the source agreed.

Fittipaldi identified him as Marcello Massinelli and provided text messages to the court indicating their correspondence. He said Massinelli was a colleague of another defendant, Raffaele Mincione, who had managed the London property for the Vatican until late 2018.

The Vatican ultimately decided to buy Mincione out of the deal and hand management over to another London-based Italian broker, Gianluigi Torzi. That transfer is at the heart of the Vatican trial, with prosecutors alleging Torzi defrauded the Vatican and then extorted it to get control of the building.

Fittipaldi said Massinelli had let him view the contract to show that, as far as Mincione was concerned, it outlined a legitimate, legal transaction.

In their indictment, Vatican prosecutors substantiated the charge against Di Ruzza by noting that Fittipaldi’s screenshot of the contract bore an “X” mark on one side, as did a copy found in the offices of Di Ruzza’s Financial Information Authority.

Fittipaldi is no stranger to the Vatican tribunal. He was put on trial by Vatican prosecutors in 2015, accused of publishing leaked Vatican documents. After an eight-month trial, the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to prosecute him or another Italian journalist who was also put on trial in the so-called “Vatileaks 2” case.

The current financial trial, which opened in July 2021, is expected to wrap up before the end of the year.

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