THERE should be an international investigation into allegations that an Italian cardinal used Vatican funds to corrupt the sexual abuse case levelled against Cardinal George Pell, according to his former defence barrister.
Robert Richter, QC, has told The Australian newspaper the allegations, reported in the Italian media, were serious and should be investigated by authorities with the capacity to track money.
“These are serious allegations and they need to be investigated properly and independently,” he said.
“Only then will we know where it’s gone.” Italian news reports claim that Vatican funds were sent to people in Australia to help secure a sex assault conviction against Cardinal Pell (pictured).
Two newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera have reported that Cardinal Pell’s rival in the Vatican Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu is suspected of arranging the equivalent of $A1.14 million to be wired to recipients in Australia to ensure evidence against Cardinal Pell.
Corriere della Sera quoted a dossier of leaked documents, including wire transfers linked to Cardinal Becciu.
In 2014 Cardinal Pell was brought in by Pope Francis to head the powerful Secretariat for the Economy.
His job was to restore accountability and transparency to the Vatican’s finances, but Cardinal Pell was forced to stand aside and return to Australia to face criminal charges that he molested two choirboys in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, soon after his appointment as archbishop in the 1990s.
He was convicted and sent to jail but ultimately an appeal in the High Court of Australia led to his acquittal and the conviction being quashed.
Corriere della Sera speculated that Cardinal Becciu might have “bought” the testimony of Cardinal Pell’s accuser to get Cardinal Pell out of the Vatican.
Last Monday, Vivian Waller, lawyer for the prosecution’s key witness, one of the former choirboys whose testimony led a jury to initially convict Cardinal Pell in 2018, rejected any suggestion that her client had been bribed.
“My client denies any knowledge or receipt of any payments,” Ms Waller said.
“He won’t be commenting further in response to these allegations.” Since his release from prison in April, Cardinal Pell, now 79, has been living in Sydney.
His return to Rome last week, apparently to vacate his apartment, coincided with the latest Italian media claims.
A fierce rivalry between Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Becciu dates back to at least 2016 when the Australian, in his then role as the Vatican’s treasurer, ordered an audit of the Holy See’s finances.
Last month, Cardinal Becciu resigned from his position at the Vatican’s office responsible for recognising saints.
He and other Vatican officials are under investigation over their alleged involvement in a financial scandal.
Before his return to Italy, Cardinal Pell released a statement saying: “I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria.”
Victoria Police has not received a complaint about the money transfers, raised in the Italian new reports.
Cardinal Becciu has strongly denied any wrongdoing, despite another Italian newspaper Il Messaggero quoting the former right-hand man to Cardinal Becciu claiming that a bank transfer was made from the Vatican to a bank in Australia.
The story quotes Monsignor Alberto Perlasca saying the transfer was made at the same time that the child-abuse case against Cardinal Pell was developing in Australia.
Monsignor Perlasca worked closely with Cardinal Becciu when the latter was second in charge at the Secretariat of State.