'Vatileaks' trial due to end after nearly 8 months

Public relations expert Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (centre) arrives for a hearing in the so-called "Vatileaks II" trial in Vatican City on July 4.
Public relations expert Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (centre) arrives for a hearing in the so-called "Vatileaks II" trial in Vatican City on July 4.PHOTO: EPA

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The trial of five people accused of leaking or publishing confidential documents depicting a Vatican plagued by corruption and mismanagement goes to a panel of judges for verdicts on Thursday (July 7).

The four non-clerical judges will retire after each defendant is allowed to make a final statement on Thursday morning. Verdicts in the "Vatileaks II" trial, which started in November, are expected for Thursday afternoon.

They will end a sometimes bizarre trial whose main protagonists were public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui, who is Italian, and Spanish priest Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda.

Once colleagues in a now-defunct papal reform commission investigating Vatican finances, their past relationship was at best ambiguous, and they spent most of the trial hurling insults and accusations at each other.

He claimed she was an ambitious and manipulative social climber who put him under a powerful seductive spell and turned against him when she did not get a permanent position in the Vatican.

She sent him text messages with insulting, unpublishable references to his alleged homosexuality. He said she led him to believe she was a spy who could reveal secrets about his personal life if she did not get a prominent Vatican job.


Even Chaouqui's lawyer Laura Sgro, in closing arguments on Tuesday, used words including loud-mouthed, insufferable, arrogant and presumptuous to describe her client but said that this did not mean she was guilty.

Chaouqui, Vallejo - the only non-Italian - and his assistant Nicola Maio are accused of forming a criminal association and conspiracy to divulge private documents.

The Vatican made it a crime to disclose official documents in 2013 after a separate leaks scandal, which the media dubbed Vatileaks and which preceded the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

The two journalists among the five defendants - Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi - are accused of putting pressure on the other three to get the documents, which were published in two books last year.

Vallejo, citing his confused state of mind, has admitted giving Nuzzi access to password-protected documents of the now-defunct Vatican advisory commission. The other four defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors on Monday requested a sentence of three years and nine months for Chaouqui, three years and one month for Vallejo, and one year and nine months for Maio.

They asked for a one-year suspended sentence for Nuzzi and for charges to be dropped against Fittipaldi for lack of sufficient evidence.

The defence asked for full acquittal for all five.

All the defendants face sentences of up to eight years in jail but are unlikely to serve any time if convicted, particularly if the judges agree to requests of the prosecution.

Chaouqui gave birth three weeks ago and the judges - all Italian citizens - are expected to take that into consideration.

The Vatican, the world's smallest state, has a two-cell jail. In line with bilateral agreements, those convicted in the Vatican can serve jail terms in Italy.

But most convictions of three years or less for minor crimes in Italy are effectively suspended because of overcrowding in Italian prisons.