Francesca Chaouqui was hired by the Vatican to advise a committee set up by Pope Francis to investigate corruption within the Holy See. However, it is alleged she passed on details of their finding to two journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi wrote two books that claim to reveal greed and corruption at the Vatican.
The books also exposed alleged greed and mismanagement, as well as resistance to the pope's attempt to reform the Vatican's financial affairs.
It is against Vatican law to leak official documents, but the journalists say it is a principle of public interest and that Chaouqui is a whistleblower. Under Italian law, they say, the case would be thrown out as their journalism would have been in the public interest.
In particular, they claim the Vatican's vast real estate holdings are losing millions of euros in lost rental income by renting out their estate at below market prices and millions in missing inventory from the Vatican's tax-free store. The books also exposed alleged greed and mismanagement, as well as resistance to the pope's attempt to reform the Vatican's financial affairs.
The Vatican has put the two journalists on trial alongside Chaouqui, the committee secretary Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Nicola Maio, a lay employee of the committee who was an assistant to the monsignor.
Vatican indicts 5 in Vatileaks case https://t.co/LcZICoPiPZ pic.twitter.com/nwMUjCJ0ZI— Vatican News (@TheVaticanNews) November 23, 2015
No Lucrezia Borgia
The Pope has made it clear he regretted hiring Chaouqui and joked to reporters that he was glad that 15th century femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia "is not around anymore." Borgia was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI and is rumored to have poisoned her enemies.
Chaouqui is alleged to have passed on to the two journalists documents under investigation by the committee, showing how the Vatican's vast real estate holdings are losing millions.
However, the claims have been denied by the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith which described the allegations as "unacceptable." It said that all of its properties are rented at market prices with a few exceptions for charitable reasons.
The trial of the five continues, but it emerged Wednesday that even if the two journalists — who are Italian citizens — are found guilty by the Vatican judiciary, they may not be extradited from Italy. One leading lawyer said no extradition treaty existed between the Vatican and Italy.