Italian PR expert accuses Spanish priest of papal wiretaps
Vatican City (AFP) - Italian public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui, arrested for allegedly stealing confidential documents from the Vatican, said Wednesday it was her co-accused, a Spanish priest, who secretly recorded the pope's conversations.
Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, who was also arrested on the weekend, is currently languishing in a Vatican jail, while Chaouqui was released Monday after cooperating with authorities on a case that has embarrassed the Church.
"It was Balda who recorded Pope Francis, I didn't know anything about it," the 33-year-old said in an interview published in La Repubblica on Wednesday in which she distanced herself completely from her former friend.
And she said she was not the only one who knew Vallejo Balda, 54, had been recording the pope without his knowledge.
Dubbed a "sex bomb" by Italian media, Chaouqui was part of a now defunct special commission (known as COSEA) set up by Pope Francis to advise him on economic reform within the Church -- along with Vallejo Balda.
"It was he who played one of the recordings to the members of the COSEA," Chaouqui said, adding that the others has been "astounded" by what Vallejo Balda had done but the matter ended there.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Chaouqui said the conversation with the Repubblica journalist had been off the record and she had not given permission for it to be published.
The accused pair are suspected of having leaked documents and wiretaps to two Italian investigative journalists who published books this week dishing the dirt on gross financial mismanagement at the Vatican, including the use of charity funds to refurbish cardinals' homes.
In the recordings, the pope is heard complaining that the Vatican finances are "out of control" and demanding that tighter checks be made on expenses.