Last weekend, following investigations, the Vatican Gendarmerie arrested a Spanish monsignor, Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, and an Italian public relations expert, Dr. Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, for their alleged roles in leaking confidential and reserved information regarding Vatican finances and other matters to Italian journalists who have just published two books mainly based on this information.
While Mgr. Vallejo Balda, 54, is still in a Vatican prison, Ms. Chaouqui, 33, is back in her home. She was released after being detained for a day and a half as she had begun to collaborate with the investigators.
The Vatican issued a press communique on November 2 announcing the arrests and 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.”
America has now learned that there was another reason—could it be the main one?—for her rapid release. It relates to the fact that she is more than two months pregnant and sources say the Pope did not want her held in prison given her condition. This fact too explains why Chaouqui was actually detained in a convent of women religious inside the Vatican, and not put in a prison cell as happened to Vallejo Balda. He is in the same cell that was occupied by Benedict XVI’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, 3 years ago.
Chaouqui is now represented by one of the most famous lawyers in the country, Giulia Bongiorno. After her release, she has maintained her total innocence in conversations with journalists, and on Facebook and Twitter she stated: “I am not a mole. I have not betrayed the Pope. I never gave a page to anybody.” She blames Vallejo Balda for dragging her into all this.
For his part, the Spanish monsignor who has close links to Opus Dei, is being detained in a Vatican prison “at the disposition of the Promoter of Justice.” At the time of his arrest Mons. Vallejo Balda 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 Vallejo Balda and Chaouqui 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. He was secretary of that commission and she was one of its members. Both had access to the confidential financial and organizational information that appears the two books just published.
They were arrested under new legislation introduced in the Vatican City State by Pope Francis on July 11, 2013, which amended its Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The law came into force six days before COSEA was established.
Since her release, Chaouqui has been interrogated on at least one occasion by the Vatican investigators, as have a number of Vatican employees in what seems to be a widening investigation that could catch bigger fish.