The Vatican justice system faces the most complex investigation and trial, with the largest number of defendants it has seen in decades.
By Andrea Tornielli
The Vatican investigation which began with the sale of the London property, and the trial – still in its preliminary stages – which followed, are in no way comparable to the investigations and trials which took place “beyond the Tiber. ” lately. decades. This is evident both in terms of the number of people investigated and then charged, as well as in terms of the large number of testimonies collected and the electronic and digital material used, the number and seriousness of the alleged offenses, and, finally, in terms complexity of the various intertwined events. It all started with the internal investigation authorized almost three years ago by Pope Francis, who repeatedly stressed the importance of the fact that the reports of alleged irregularities, and the accusations that followed, came from the system. control of the Vatican. We can therefore say that the launch of the trial was and is a test of strength, a real “stress test” for the judicial system of the State of Vatican City.
Among the complications that arose, there was certainly that of the application of an older procedural code, the Finocchiaro Aprile of 1913, which differs from the legal code currently in force in Italy. Various important standards have been added to this code recently, but in any case, before the investigation took on its current contours. This has created objective problems for all parties to the proceedings, who are urged to apply this code to factual situations that the legislature of a century ago certainly could not have foreseen. It suffices to mention, for example, telephone tapping or the seizure and use of computer equipment. On the other hand, the Office of the Promoter of Justice, the Vatican prosecutor, who carried out investigations exclusively with the collaboration of the Corps de gendarmerie as judicial police, often had to deal with issues of considerable and unprecedented complexity. : one thinks of the enormous number of documents and the numerous rogatory requests necessary to reconstitute the flows of money abroad which make up the structure of the prosecution.
As is customary at the start of any trial, the defendants’ preliminary objections concerned certain decisions and certain behaviors adopted by the Promoter’s Office, based on different interpretations of the law applied in the case. This is a phase that can be described as “physiological”, where the activity carried out by the prosecution is brought before the judge and the defense teams are called upon to perform their essential task. The Promoter’s Office itself, on the sidelines of the hearing, expressed “its appreciation for the ordinary dialectic between the parties, the prosecution and the defense”, saying at the same time certain of the merits of the investigations carried out and of the documentation acquired.
In the hearings that have taken place to date, the Vatican City State Tribunal has demonstrated, and also enshrined it in black and white in one of its ordinances, its desire to uphold the right of defense and, more generally, for due process. This latter principle was implemented by the Vatican with a law of July 11, 2013, promulgated a few months after the start of the current pontificate, which is part of the legislation in force beyond the Vatican.
It is precisely in the logic of guaranteeing a fair trial, and of preserving the rights of the defense, that the Court – following the exception of nullity and the doubts on the interpretation of the law raised by the defenders; as well as the requests received at this stage from the prosecution itself – returned the documents to the Promoter of justice in order to then be able to provide for the missing interrogations of the defendants. As we know, the Court also ordered the Promoter to produce all the documents at its disposal, such as audio and video recordings of the interrogations of defendants and witnesses, carried out with instruments that the legislation of 1913 could obviously not envisage. .
The Promoter’s Office stated that, in accordance with the court order of October 6, the Office filed all audio and video recordings of the interrogations in their entirety and therefore “all documents which are sources of evidence can be found. in the trial documents. The Promoter also explained, with regard to the omissions in certain parts of the interrogation report, that they “relate to statements which are not relevant” to this trial and that they were subject to “confidentiality requirements because they were the subject of a stand-alone investigation. activities in other procedures.
As the president indicated during one of the hearings, the Court is now waiting for the prosecution to rule on several of the defendants, either by dismissing the charges or by requesting a new indictment. And the Promoter of Justice announced that this process would be completed by mid-January 2022, with the resulting determinations. At this stage, and only after all the decisions on the other defenders’ exceptions, on which the Court has not yet ruled, have been rendered – one way or another – that it will be It is possible to begin examining the merits of the entire trial, thus entering the heart of the trial phase in order to examine the massive number of acts and documents that make up the adversarial system.