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Rome Newsroom, Oct 29, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Lawyers for Cardinal Angelo Becciu released a statement late Wednesday contradicting an Italian news report that the former curial official has been summoned by the Vatican in connection with payments to a self-described geopolitical analyst and security consultant.

Becciu’s defense attorneys issued the statement in response to an Oct. 28 report by Italian newsweekly L’Espresso, stating that “according to Vatican judicial sources,” Becciu is being investigated in connection to a case against Italian Cecilia Marogna, and that he has “not yet presented himself” to Vatican prosecutors for questioning.

“In the interest of His Eminence the Cardinal, the defense attorneys once again reiterate that their client has not received any communication from the competent authority,” said lawyers Fabio Viglione and Agostinangelo Marras, in a statement later the same day.  

Marogna has been accused of aggravated embezzlement of Vatican funds for payments of more than 500,000 euros she received from the Secretariat of State through her Slovenia-registered company in 2018 and 2019. The accusation is that funds intended for humanitarian purposes were used for personal expenses, including stays at luxury hotels and purchases of designer label handbags.

Marogna has said she worked for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State as a security consultant and strategist, and she acknowledged receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican, stating that the money all went to her Vatican consultancy work and her salary. 

Expensive gifts “were used to create cooperative relationships,” she said.

It has been reported that these payments were made under the direction of the former sostituto of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Becciu, who has been accused of using Marogna to build “off-books” intelligence networks. 

Marogna was arrested Oct. 13 in Milan on an international warrant issued by the Vatican through Interpol.

The 39-year-old Sardinian is currently being held in Milan’s San Vittore jail as she awaits the court’s decision regarding her appeal of an extradition request from Vatican City. The process is expected to take as long as a month.

The fifth section criminal court of appeal in Milan heard Oct. 28 a request from Marogna’s lawyer that she be released from jail while awaiting the decision in her extradition appeal. The Milan prosecutor argued against her release over concerns she is a flight risk. Judges are expected to make their decision about Marogna’s release by Monday.

As reports about Cardinal Becciu’s financial dealings at the Secretariat of State continue to emerge, questions have also been raised about the relationship between the president of the Vatican City court to some of the media outlets publishing these reports.

According to an editorial by news aggregator Il Sismografo earlier this month, Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican tribunal, is a contributing op-ed writer with the GEDI Group, the publisher of L’Espresso, La Repubblica, and other Italian national and local newspapers.

L’Espresso and La Repubblica have been among the leading Italian news outlets publishing reports on investigations into Becciu, including information from purported leaked Vatican court documents. These reports have not been independently confirmed by CNA.

Another report by L’Espresso at the end of September also alleged that Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report.