During a Vatican City trial on Monday over a case in which five individuals are accused of leaking and disseminating confidential financial documents, a former Vatican official said he relayed documents only under duress.
“Yes, I passed documents,” Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, a former secretary of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs, told Vatican prosecutors March 14. “I was convinced I was in a situation without exit.”
Msgr. Vallejo claimed he felt trapped by “the powerful world behind” Francesca Chaouqui — another of the defendants in the trial.
Chaouqui, a public relations expert, was a member of a committee formed by Pope Francis in 2013 to help reform Vatican finances. The committee, COSEA, has since been dissolved.
The three other defendants are Nicola Maio, Msgr. Vallejo's secretary, and the journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi.
Msgr. Vallejo, Chaouqui, and Maio have been accused of working together to form “an organized criminal association” with the intention of “disclosing information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy See and the (Vatican City) State.”
Chaouqui and Msgr. Vallejo were arrested in connection with the leaks in November, and are believed to have passed the documents on to Nuzzi and Fittipaldi, who published separate books on the information.
Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have been charged with illegally procuring and subsequently releasing the private information and documents.
Msgr. Vallejo admitted to giving Nuzzi a list of some 87 passwords enabling him to access COSEA's emails, while saying he did so when he believed his email account had already been compromised and that Nuzzi already had the documents.
The priest claimed that Chaouqui claimed to work for Italy's secret service, and that she manipulated him into leaking the information. He said that at times “I felt as if my physical safety was in danger.”
The questioning of Msgr. Vallejo will continue on Tuesday.