Vatican prosecutor interrogates papal butler

Tue Jun 5, 2012 4:27pm GMT

By Silvia Aloisi

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A prosecutor began interrogating Pope Benedict's butler on Tuesday to decide if he should stand trial in what would be one of the most sensational court cases ever in the Vatican.

Prosecutor Piero Antonio Bonnet questioned Paolo Gabriele in the presence of his two lawyers and Nicola Piccardi, another Vatican judicial official known as the "promoter of justice".

Bonnet must now decide whether there is enough evidence to order Gabriele, who was arrested on May 23 after Vatican police found a large number of confidential papal documents in his Vatican apartment, to stand trial on charges of aggravated theft.

Gabriele, 46, who has dual Vatican and Italian citizenship, was arrested as part of a Vatican investigation into what is known as the "Vatileaks" scandal, in which sensitive papal documents were leaked to Italian media.

Many Vatican insiders believe the butler, who served the pope his meals, helped him dress and rode in the front seat of the popemobile, could not have acted alone and may be a pawn in a much wider power struggle between cardinals.

The leaks scandal began in January and came to a head last month when, in the space of a few days, the head of the Vatican bank was abruptly dismissed, Gabriele was arrested and a book containing a trove of private Vatican correspondence was published.

The leaked documents allege corruption in the Vatican's business dealings with Italian companies, which were paid inflated prices for work in the Vatican, rivalries among cardinals and clashes over the management of the Vatican's bank, the IOR.

Gabriele could be held for up to 100 days in pre-trial custody, said Vatican judge Paolo Papanti Pelletier, who is not involved in the leaks case at this stage.   Continued...

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