By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A Vatican official and a former lay consultant on a pontifical commission were arrested for leaking documents to an Italian journalist who has announced plans to publish the documents in a book.
Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Francesca Chaouqui, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, were taken into custody by Vatican police, the Vatican press office announced Nov. 2.
Chaouqui, who previously worked in public relations and communications for Ernst & Young Italy, and Msgr. Vallejo Balda both served on the pontifical commission established by Pope Francis in 2013 to develop solutions for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency in all Vatican offices.
They were questioned over the weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1 by Vatican police who have been investigating “the removal and dissemination of news and confidential documents,” the press office said.
Although they were both arrested and detained after the interrogation, Chaouqui was released due to her cooperation with the investigation, the Vatican statement said. However, Msgr. Vallejo Balda’s release “remains under consideration” by the Vatican prosecutor.
According to the laws of Vatican City State, those convicted of unlawfully leaking private documents can face imprisonment from six months to two years or face fines from 1000 euro to 5000 euro.
The announcement of the arrests comes just before the release Nov. 5 of a new book by Gianluigi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who published dozens of private Vatican documents in the so-called “VatiLeaks” scandal in 2012.
A press release for the book, which will be published in English with the title “Merchants in the Temple,” claims that Nuzzi had access to “unpublished and secret documents” that reveal “unbelievable stories of scandal and corruption at the highest levels.”
Another Italian journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, is also set to release a book based on private documents; his book is titled, “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church.”
The Vatican press office said that leaking and publishing the documents is “a serious betrayal of trust granted by the pope,” and that prosecutors are looking into taking legal action against the authors for publishing information received unlawfully.
“Publications of this kind do not contribute in any way to establishing clarity and truth, but rather create confusion and partial and tendentious interpretations,” the Vatican press office said.
“We must absolutely avoid the mistake of thinking that this is a way to help the mission of the pope.”