CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A self-described geopolitical analyst at the center of the most recent Vatican financial scandal is being held in an Italian jail pending extradition to the Vatican. Cecilia Marogna was arrested October 13 by Italian financial authorities after a warrant was issued by Vatican prosecutors through Interpol.
Marogna has said she worked for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State as a security consultant and strategist. Vatican authorities reportedly issued the warrant on charges of aggravated embezzlement. She has acknowledged receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican via her company registered in Slovenia, and confirmed use of the funds for the purchase of luxury items, including designer label handbags.
She has stated that the money all went to her Vatican consultancy work and her salary; expensive gifts, such as trips or purses, she said, “were used to create cooperative relationships.”
Although a Milan court of appeal has upheld the execution of the warrant, lawyers for Marogna have appealed her extradition to Vatican City, a process that is expected to take as long as a month to complete. Pending the outcome of the appeal, Marogna is being held in a local jail after the Milan court deemed her a flight risk.
Marogna has said that she has worked with the secretariat since contacting Cardinal Angelo Becciu in 2015 to see if he agreed with her analysis of security problems at Vatican nunciatures. At the time, Becciu served as the sostituto at the secretariat.
The allegations were first presented on Oct. 5 on the Italian TV program Le Iene, which claimed to have documents showing that the Secretariat of State had given half a million euros to Marogna’s Slovenian company and that she had “a relationship of trust” with Becciu.
Becciu reportedly met with her at the Vatican for an hour and a half and “a relationship of esteem was born that resulted in an operational collaboration,” according to Marogna.
Becciu served as sostituto, or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
On Sept. 24, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had accepted Becciu’s resignation from the rights and privileges as a cardinal, and from his curial office. Becciu has been linked to a number of financial scandals, most notably the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.
In June, Vatican authorities arrested Gianluigi Torzi on charges of extortion and money laundering over his role in brokering the secretariat’s purchase of the London building from Mincione.
According to Italian media reports, although Marogna claims to have worked for the Vatican in African and Middle Eastern countries, local officials and contacts deny having ever met or even heard of her. Becciu has been accused of using Marogna to build an “off-books” intelligence network.
On Friday, Italian tabloid website Dagospia reported that Marogna had been an invited guest of Becciu at the Vatican, however the report claimed Marogna stayed in the “Apostolic Palace,” where it claimed Pope Francis lived on the top floor. Pope Francis’ residence is in the Domus Santa Marta, a guest house in Vatican City, not the Apostolic Palace. Cardinal Becciu lives in an apartment in the Palazzo San Ufizzio.
According to Italian media reports, the Vatican warrant concerns payments to Marogna from December 2018 through Oct. 2020. Becciu left the secretariat in June of 2018, though he has acknowledged continuing to play a role in Vatican financial affairs since then.
In May of 2020, Becciu was involved in presenting a bid from several businessmen to buy the London property which the Holy See had purchased from Mincione in 2018. Becciu acknowledged presenting the offer directly to Pope Francis and also arranged meetings to present the proposal to Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Marogna’s arrest is the second time that Italian law enforcement authorities have cooperated in the Vatican’s ongoing financial investigation.
In July, Mincione was served with a search and seizure warrant by Italian authorities in Rome, the warrant was issued by an Italian magistrate after a request from the Vatican’s office of the Promoter of Justice. To obtain a search warrant for Mincione’s property, Vatican offices had to successfully convince an Italian judge of the seriousness of their case.
A spokesperson for Mincione told CNA Wednesday that the businessman’s attorneys “have challenged that order as lacking any proper factual basis and motivation at all to have been issued and are waiting to have a hearing scheduled.”