Vatican trial prosecutors concede case gaps, willing to investigate more

VATICAN CITY, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The prosecution at a Vatican trial of 10 people accused of financial crimes, including a cardinal, acknowledged on Tuesday weaknesses in its case and said it was willing to return to the investigative phase to fill in gaps contested by the defence.

Deputy prosecutor Alessandro Diddi made the surprise announcement at the first hearing since the trial started in July, saying: "I feel the duty to meet (the defence requests) half-way."

Defence lawyers told the court Diddi's request was unacceptable. Citing a raft of what they said were procedural errors, they asked court president Giuseppe Pignatone to annul the 500-page indictment of the 10 handed down on July 3, which would effectively kill the current trial.

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Pignatone adjourned the trial after about two hours and said he would announce his decisions on Wednesday morning.

The trial revolves mostly around the purchase by the Vatican's Secretariat of State of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London's South Kensington, one of the wealthiest districts in the British capital.

If Pignatone agrees to Diddi's request he and others on the prosecution team will return to their work with thousands of pages and evidence and documents, question some of the defendants again, and other witnesses for the first time.

In the first two sessions of the trial, defence lawyers said their work was hindered because they did not have access to all the evidence and were concerned about possible discrepancies.

In particular, they want to view videos of five interrogations of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, a former Vatican official who was first a suspect and then a star witness for the prosecution.

Prosecutors have suggested that there were privacy concerns regarding other people in Perlasca's testimony and feared they would be leaked.

Perlasca is the main witness in the case against the most prominent defendant, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a once powerful Vatican official.

The prosecution has accused Becciu, other former Vatican officials or employees and outside middlemen involved in the deal of embezzlement, abuse of office, and fraud, among other charges. They all have denied wrongdoing.

The Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the London investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, an ex-Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were "enormous losses".

Pope Francis fired Becciu from his last Vatican post in 2020 for alleged nepotism, which he also has denied.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich

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