On the day of Monsignor Perlasca’s interrogation, which lasted 6 hours, the Promoter of Justice announces the new investigation: the content of a telephone call made by the cardinal to the Pope and stolen without the latter’s knowledge has been disclosed. The audio, recorded by a relative of the Sardinian cardinal, is among the acts of an investigation by the Sassari prosecutor’s office
Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City
The recording of a phone call between Cardinal Angelo Becciu and Pope Francis was broadcast today in the multipurpose hall of the Vatican Museums, during the thirty-seventh hearing for the management of the funds of the Holy See. Those present – who had come for the interrogation of the “key witness”, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca – listened to the unabridged audio in which the cardinal asked the Pope, ten days after his resignation from Gemelli and three days before the start of the trial, to confirm that it was he who authorized the payments to the manager Cecilia Marogna for the release of a Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali.
The phone call lasting more than five minutes took place on 24 July 2021, at 2.55 pm, in the cardinal’s apartment in Piazza del Sant’Uffizio, in speakerphone and recorded by a relative of Becciu, Maria Luisa Zambrano, in the presence of an unidentified man . The “exhibit”, as presented by the promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi, was found precisely from Zambrano’s telephone by the Guardia di Finanza of Oristani, as part of an investigation by the Public Prosecutor of Sassari into the management of the Spes Cooperative, led by the brother of Becciu Tonino, and on the cardinal’s family.
The documentation was sent with rogatory letter to the Office of the Promoter of Justice and illustrated today in the courtroom by Diddi, who explained that this and other material have now triggered a new investigation in the Vatican for “criminal association”, also involving Cardinal Becciu.
The investigations of the Sassari prosecutor’s office
Again Diddi, listing the deeds that emerged from the Sassari rogatory, reported statements by the emeritus bishop of Ozieri, Monsignor Sergio Pintor, who died in 2020, regarding relations with the Becciu family who, according to him, managed Caritas “at a family level” , with traces of “heavy interference in pastoral activities”. There was also talk of 927 documents for the transport of 18,000 kg of bread produced by Spes to be delivered parish by parish, to justify the sums paid by the diocese to the cooperative. The documents, however, appear to have been “falsified”.
Interrogation in Perlasca
The presentation of the new documents postponed by about an hour and a half the long-awaited interrogation of Monsignor Perlasca, former head of the Administrative Office of the Secretariat of State. Started at 11.15am, finished at 5.45pm. Six hours during which the Monsignor from Como touched on all the founding points of the process: from the sale of the Palace of London, to the payments to Marogna and to Ozieri’s Caritas, from relations with Torzi and Mincione to the nature of the investments made by the Secretariat of State. Investments that he has assured that he has never been able to authorize. “In the office I coordinated how first among equals. I had no decision-making power, not even the IOR recognized my signature. I was expressing an opinion in the order of help and not the replacement of the responsibility that belongs to the role and salary of the superior”. The financial activities were “totally in the hands” of Fabrizio Tirabassi (defendant): “I tried in every way to have him replaced. I didn’t like it much. One then has to make the horses that he has run ”.
Relations with Mincione and the Office of the Auditor General
Perlasca said that “after the beatings of 2008 and 2011” it was decided to make “more stable investments” and to open up “to the real estate sector”. The London Palace deal, on Sloane Avenue, was one of them and had been proposed by the financier Raffaele Mincione. The Secretariat of State invested in its Gof fund, but recommended avoiding “speculation”. Mincione, however, “did what he wanted, we often pulled his ears. He financed his activities with our share of cash. We were junkers who lost money,” Perlasca said, turning several times to Mincione himself sitting in the last row. In the summer of 2018, the Holy See says enough and decides to leave the Gof: “Faith is infinite, patience limited”.
Did the findings of the Auditor General’s Office also influence this choice? “Absolutely not,” replied the monsignor. The Office, which was just taking its first steps at the time, “was clumsy in its way of intervening… These gentlemen threw themselves headlong into a reality they did not know. They had wanted to put petrol in a diesel engine”.
The meeting in London 2018
Great space was therefore given to the London meeting of 20-23 November 2018, at the end of which the two agreements were signed which established the transfer to the Gut fund of Gianluigi Torzi (defendant). It really wasn’t supposed to be like this. “It was a technical meeting, not a decision-making one. They had to carry full and immediate ownership of the property. Psychologically, no one was ready to go out, it was simply a study meeting,” said Perlasca, explaining that he didn’t go “because I couldn’t have done more than the wallpapering.”
“I sent Tirabassi and Crassus as trusted experts from the house with the mandate to bring a proposal that could be evaluated by the superiors”. That is, by the substitute, at the time already Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. “It’s not that it was a meeting of Carbonari, they were technical people who went to London in the light of day to hold a meeting whose results would be taken, analysed, deciphered at home”. Instead, after “hectic” days, he returned home with a framework agreement. Perlasca said he had repeatedly insisted on stalling and involving other experts. But Tirabassi “on the phone he said we have to conclude, let’s lose money, they’ll give us an opportunity on a silver platter, look up there, look up, look down. I said to myself: if the technicians say that everything is fine, everything is fine”.
Torzi’s thousand actions
The agreement stipulated in London provided for the thousand shares with voting rights which gave Torzi total control of the Palazzo. It was Gianluca Dal Fabbro, a person who frequented the Secretariat of State, who made the head of the Administrative Office understand the “vice” of the agreement. “He told Me: getting out of that thing is going to cost you a lot of money. At that moment the scenario about the disaster that had happened tragically fell. Dal Fabbro explained to me for the first time the difference between our 30,000 shares that counted as much as the 2 of sticks and a thousand shares. I was annihilated, I turn around and say to Tirabassi: does he realize what you’ve done? He had the good taste to shut up ”.
Perlasca decided to denounce Torzi: “’This is a scam!’, I told everyone, but most of it was to pay or bargain. They told me: from now on, don’t be interested in the operation anymore. Tirabassi went ahead. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m delighted.” Perlasca, however, revealed that she felt “sadness and inner anger” when, “by a roundabout way”, she learned that the Holy See had paid Torzi.
Payment in Marogna
Over an hour of the interrogation of the monsignor was devoted to relations with Cardinal Becciu, recently sentenced by the Tribunal of Como to compensate Perlasca himself and his friend Genoveffa Ciferri. Perlasca was asked to account for the payments sent to Cecilia Marogna, the manager from Cagliari who had proposed herself as an intermediary with her company in Slovenia for the release of the Colombian nun. “I was asked to make payments to ‘a hook’. I didn’t know if he was a man or a woman. Ransoms and blackmails are never paid, but despite this I said: all right, I’ll do the operation. If the superior says, listen. If he doesn’t say, don’t ask, you need to know. It’s our school.”
From the interrogation of April 29, 2020, Perlasca declared that she had learned “for the first time that this woman had spent on luxury items… I went to the cardinal’s apartment to say ‘did she cheat?’. Becciu replied: if it’s true, I’ll call you to say that you have to pay back ‘”. Still on Marogna, Perlasca explained that a letter signed by a certain Cecilia Zulema had arrived at the Secretariat of State who “introduced herself as an agent of the DIS and asked for a contribution for a mission in Libya”. The note was sent to the then Pontifical Council Cor Unum: “When I heard Cecilia Marogna during the interrogation, I was blown away, the last thing I thought was that they were the same person”.
The conversation with Cantoni
Again, Perlasca answered the question of whether there had been a request to the current Cardinal Oscar Cantoni, bishop of Como, “to say different things to the judicial authority”. What for the investigators is configured as a crime of bribery. “I was told by my bishop that Becciu had telephoned to say that I would have to withdraw what I had said, otherwise I would have been jailed for 6 months. I gave the operation a name and pointed it out”.
Dinner in Rome
The monsignor also recalled the September 2020 dinner with Becciu in a restaurant in Rome: “I invited him to find out what he was doing for me”. That is, if, as requested by him, Becciu was interceding with the Pope to rehabilitate him. “He told me about a phantom commission of cardinals that was supposed to manage the case outside the Court. I also asked: has this nun been freed? ‘It’s a very long thing, it will take 3-4 years’. I understood that she was teasing me. What he didn’t understand is that I no longer hung on her lips, I had already distanced myself from a relationship of dedication and devotion for 11 years. And he, to express his good to me, denounced me in Como ”.
The interrogation in Perlasca will continue tomorrow.