Vatileaks trial adjourned as new sex and secrets claims emerge


Vatican City (AFP)

The Vatican's controversial trial of journalists and others was adjourned Thursday until next month as a new account emerged of an alleged night of sex and secrets between two of the accused.

The adjournment until April 6 was announced by the Vatican after one of the five accused, PR consultant Francesca Chaouqui, who is six months pregnant, was advised to rest by doctors.

Chaouqui, a former member of an economic reform commission established by Pope Francis, is accused of conspiring with Spanish Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda and his assistant to leak documents which revealed serious irregularities in Vatican spending.

Vallejo Balda admitted in court on Monday to handing over files and passwords to two reporters who are also on trial.

But he said he did so under duress having been effectively blackmailed by his female colleague, with whom he claims to have had a sexually charged relationship culminating in a "compromising" encounter in a Florence hotel.

Chaouqui, who is married, has categorically denied having sex with the cleric.

In her version of the night in Florence, published on her Facebook page on Wednesday, she implies Vallejo Balda had confided in her about a previous gay encounter or relationship.

"He told me something in confidence, something he said only I knew," she wrote.

"I stayed, I listened. I cried with him. I understood what he was going through, as a man and as a priest.

"But he was my friend, and friends are for always, whatever may be hidden in their past.

"I was sincere, I wasn't pretending as perhaps he was. I was sincere when I told him it was not important if he had a lover, that it was not important what sex that person was..."

Chaouqui said the cleric's claims against her had made her decide to reveal what he had told her in court.

"That night and those confidences have been transformed into a night of sex with me, which according to Balda was his first time with a woman," she wrote.

- 'I will destroy you' -

"In court I will reveal the details of what he confided, without judging I will recount them all, every detail. I have no choice but to do it for my own self-esteem and for the love of the truth that I owe to my (unborn) son."

The prosecution claimed during the last court session on Tuesday that Chaouqui had sent the Spanish priest a WhatsApp message in which she warned: "I will destroy you in the press and you know I can do it."

He has also claimed that she led him to believe she had links to the Italian secret services and contacts with the mafia and powerful politicians.

The latest lurid details to emerge from the case is likely to strengthen the view of senior Vatican officials who regard the prosecution as a public relations own goal and have reportedly been looking for a way to bring it to a speedy end.

The Holy See has been widely criticised for pursuing the prosecution of the two investigative journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who have published books based on the trial.

In theory all of the accused risk prison sentences of between four and eight years.

Balda has already spent over two months in a Vatican prison cell. He was transferred to house arrest before Christmas but is now back in the cell after a friend smuggled a mobile phone into his flat, breaching a detention condition that he should not have contact with the outside world.

The prosecutions against the five accused were brought under 2013 legislation rushed on to the Vatican statute in the wake of the first Vatileaks affair.

In that scandal, former pope Benedict XVI's butler leaked private letters which revealed bitter rivalries and infighting at the top of the Vatican hierarchy.