Italian newspapers report Pell rival Cardinal Giovanni Becciu is suspected of paying $1.1m to Australian witness
The barrister who led the defence of Cardinal George Pell says an international investigation should be launched into extraordinary claims that bribes were paid to influence the sexual assault case involving the senior Australian cleric.
Italian newspapers have claimed that Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, a rival of Pell, was suspected of paying €700,000 (A$1.1m) to an Australian witness in the case.
Robert Richter QC said it was incumbent on Australian and international authorities to investigate the allegations.
“They are concerning allegations and require thorough investigation of the money trail, wherever that may be,” Richter told Guardian Australia.
Becciu and Pell had been at odds over the Australian’s efforts to overhaul the management of Vatican finances.
La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera newspapers reported that Pell’s reformist agenda threatened to expose alleged corruption committed by Becciu when he distributed millions of dollars in donations between 2011 and 2018.
The Italian cardinal resigned last month amid the corruption claims, saying he had been asked to step aside.
Neither the Australian federal police nor Victoria police have been informed of any investigation by international authorities.
In 2014, when Pell was appointed to oversee Vatican finances, he acknowledged that “hundreds of millions of euros” had been discovered “tucked away” and off the city-state’s balance sheets.
In May that year, Becciu halted an audit Pell had ordered into the Vatican’s finances, a decision that “surprised” Pell.
Pell was charged with multiple sexual offences in June 2017. A Melbourne jury convicted Pell of five charges in December 2018 after an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Victoria’s court of appeal upheld the convictions last year, but Australia’s high court overturned the convictions in April.
The lawyer who represented the man who accused Pell of sexually assaulting him in the 1990s, Vivian Waller, said her client had no connection to the allegations.
“My client denies any knowledge or receipt of any payments,” Waller said. “He won’t be commenting further in response to these allegations.”
A spokesperson for the victim’s advocacy organisation Broken Rites told Guardian Australia it had not heard anything further about the allegations and was only aware of details about the claims that had been made public.
George Pell, Holy See, Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Cardinal, Vatican City
Actu monde – AU – George Pell’s lawyer calls for investigation into claim bribes paid to influence sexual assault case