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Vatican court convicts accomplice in leaks scandal

The court gave Claudio Sciarpelletti a suspended sentence of two months in prison with a probationary term of five years.

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File
Image: Alessandra Tarantino/AP/Press Association Images

A VATICAN COURT has convicted a computer programmer employed by the world’s tiniest state for helping Pope Benedict XVI’s butler engineer a series of leaks that embarrassed the Vatican.

The court handed 48-year-old Claudio Sciarpelletti a suspended sentence of two months in prison with a probationary term of five years, meaning that if he respects the terms of his probation he is likely not to have to go to prison.

Sciarpelletti was convicted on a charge of aiding and abetting, the panel of three judges said in its verdict published by the Vatican press office. His lawyer, Gianluca Benedetti, said his client will appeal the sentence.

His trial comes just weeks after the disgraced former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for engineering the leaks of secret letters and memos from the papal residence.

Sciarpelletti has worked for the past 20 years in the Secretariat of State – effectively the government of the Roman Catholic Church – and was responsible for maintenance on all the computers used by Vatican employees.

Leaks

The leaks, which were published in a book by an Italian journalist, revealed fierce infighting in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church and allegations of serious fraud in the running of the Vatican city state.

Gabriele said he had acted out of loyalty to the Church and to root out “evil and corruption” from the Vatican, telling judges at his own trial last month that he believed the pope was poorly informed on important issues.

Investigators said they found a mysterious envelope bearing with an official Vatican stamp in a drawer in Sciarpelletti’s desk. It reportedly contained copies of some of the confidential documents which appeared in the book.

Sciarpelletti said he never opened the envelope but was unclear about who had given it to him, initially telling investigators it was Gabriele and later saying he had received it from a prelate named only as “W” in court documents. The defendant said this was due to his emotional state during questioning.

Witness

The court heard that the prelate named by Sciarpelletti was Carlo Maria Polvani, a trial witness and head of the documentation service of the Secretariat of State.

Monsignor Polvani is the nephew of Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican envoy to Washington and a former governor of the Vatican city state who complained in leaked letters to the pope that he was being handed out for stamping out fraud.

Polvani said it was “unthinkable” he could give Sciarpelletti any confidential documents, adding that he was “shocked” by the rumours against him and that he had even been accused of being “a fan of Che Guevara”.

Gabriele, who is imprisoned in the Vatican awaiting a possible pardon from the pope, told the trial that he gave Sciarpelletti some documents from the pope’s office but said he could not remember giving him any envelope.

Its contents criticised the powerful head of Vatican police Domenico Giani and alleged that two of his officers also held stakes in private security firms in Italy in a possible conflict of interest, according to media reports.

The trials into the “Vatileaks” case have been the biggest in the modern history of the Vatican, whose court normally only tries cases of petty theft targeting the millions of tourists who visit the famous city state every year.

Read: Vatican casts doubt on pardon for Pope’s Butler as jail looms>

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