The Vatican Gendarmerie has arrested a Spanish monsignor working in the Roman Curia and an Italian lay woman, an expert in public relations, for their alleged roles in leaking confidential and reserved information. The woman was subsequently released following her collaboration with the investigation.
The arrests come days before the publication of two books by Italian journalists on Vatican finances based on confidential information and other documentation. The first book, Via Crucis (“Way of the Cross”) is by Gianluigi Nuzzi, who also wrote the book on the Vatileaks under Benedict XVI. The other book called Avaricia (“Avarice”) is by Emiliano Fittipaldi.
The Vatican broke the news of the arrests in a press communique on Nov. 2. It said Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda (Spain) and Dr. Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (Italy) were arrested after being interrogated on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1, by Vatican judicial authorities “for taking and divulging confidential information.”
The interrogations were conducted “in the framework of investigations of the judicial police, carried out by the Vatican Gendarmeria, that have been underway for some months in relation to the stealing of confidential news and information”, the Vatican said. Both Vallejo Baldo and Chaouqui “were summoned for interrogations last Saturday and Sunday on the basis of elements gathered and the evidence collected” and both “were put under a state of arrest with a view to the continuation of the investigations.”
The communique said, “Today, the office of the Promoter of Justice, in the persons of Prof. Gian Piero Milano, Promoter of Justice, and Prof. Roberto Zannotti, vice-Promoter of Justice, convalidated the arrest of the above named persons, but provided for the release of Dr. Chaouqui, given that the demands of preventative detention were no longer judged necessary because of her cooperation with the investigations.”
They were arrested by the Vatican Gendarmeria. The monsignor is now being detained at the disposition of the Promoter of Justice. At the time of his arrest Mons. Vallejo Balda, who has close links to Opus Dei, was Secretary of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and a member of the Holy See’s Financial Security Committee.
Both were members of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA) set up by Pope Francis on July 18, 2013 but which is now defunct having completed its work. Vallejo Balda was secretary of that commission and Chaouqui was one of its members. Both had access to the confidential financial and organizational information that appears to have been used in the two books due to be published next week.
They were arrested under new legislation introduced in the Vatican by Pope Francis on July 11, 2013, which amended the Vatican City State’s Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The law came into force six days before COSEA was established.
According to Law n.IX of the Vatican City State’s Criminal Code, article 10 (art. 116 bis), “Whoever illicitly obtains or reveals information or documents whose disclosure is forbidden, is punished with six months to two years imprisonment or with a fine ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 euro. If the object of the offence consists of information or documents concerning the fundamental interests or the diplomatic relations of the Holy See or the State, the penalty shall be of four to eight years imprisonment. If the conduct referred to in the preceding paragraph is committed due to criminal negligence, the penalty shall be of six months to two years imprisonment.”
After recalling the above legislation, the Vatican then spoke about the two books that are due for publication in the coming days and indicated that it was considering taking legal action also against the authors of those works.
The statement said: “It should be clearly stated that also this time, as in the past, they (the books) are the fruit of a grave betrayal of the trust given by the Pope and, as regards the authors, of an operation to draw advantage from a seriously illicit act of the delivery of confidential documentation.” It said “the judicial and eventual penal aspects of this operation are under study by the office of the Promoter (of Justice) with a view to other provisions” including “having recourse to international cooperation, if needs be.”
The Vatican statement concluded with these words: “Publications of this kind do not contribute in any way to establishing clarity and truth but, instead, to generating confusion and partial and tendentious interpretations.”
After publishing his book on Vatileaks in 2012, thanks to documents obtained from Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler, Nuzzi sought to justify the publication by claiming that his aim was to help Benedict XVI, but the Vatican today totally dismissed such pretensions saying, "It is absolutely necessary to avoid the equivocation of thinking that this is a way of helping the mission of the Pope.”
It is clear from the Vatican statement that the investigation is still under way and could lead to other developments.