VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Italian police arrested Cecilia Marogna, a figure connected to recent scandals over allocations of Vatican funds, in Milan on Tuesday (Oct. 13) and accused her of embezzlement.
The judicial authorities at the Vatican issued an international arrest warrant for Marogna, known as “the cardinal’s lady” by local media for her connection to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State who was asked to resign by Pope Francis on Sept. 25. The Interpol warrant, according to local reports, was quickly picked up by financial police in Milan.
Judicial authorities in Milan will review the arrest in the coming weeks and decide whether to extradite the 39-year-old consultant and entrepreneur to Vatican City. This would be the first time that judicial authorities in Milan decide to extradite someone to the Vatican.
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The arrest takes place nearly three weeks after Becciu was stripped of his privileges as cardinal as a result of accusations that he improperly used Vatican funds to benefit his friends and relatives.
Reports in the Italian news outlet Le Iene and others said Marogna had a “close relationship” with Becciu, who has allegedly sent her more than $580,000 in Vatican funds over the past two years, apparently to fund Catholic missions and dioceses in African and the Middle East.
The payments were made to a Slovenian company, Logsic, of which Marogna is the CEO, and which shows signs of being a shell, with few significant transactions. Marogna allegedly used some of the money to purchase luxury goods, including Gucci bags and a $14,000 leather chair.
Marogna denied the accusations in an interview with Italian news outlet Domani in early October, stating that she “didn’t steal a single euro.”
Instead, she said, she offered her services as a political analyst and intelligence expert, while denying any inappropriate relationship with Becciu. She also stated that the expensive gifts were for contacts in Africa with the purpose of promoting negotiations.
Becciu and Marogna are natives of the Italian coastal island of Sardinia. According to interviews with Marogna, the two met at the Vatican in 2015 when she offered her services to help secure Vatican embassies in conflict areas.
According to an official Vatican document shared by local media outlets and signed by Becciu, the cardinal knew Marogna, regarded her “with esteem and trust” and hired her as a consultant and political analyst.
Becciu denied though his lawyers having any knowledge of her personal relationships and dealings, which include questionable figures in the Italian financial landscape and charges of misappropriation in 2010 and fraud in 2002 and later aquitted.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, 2020, in Vatican City. RNS photo by Claire Giangravé
Marogna’s arrest is only the latest as the Vatican continues to reform its troubled finances. Over the summer, the Vatican issued a search and seizure warrant through Italian authorities against businessman Raffaele Mincione in his hotel in Rome, which resulted in the confiscation of his cellphone and other electronic devices. Mincione brokered a deal for London real estate that resulted in millions in losses for the Vatican.
Vatican authorities also arrested and interrogated, under charges of extortion and money laundering, Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian entrepreneur who facilitated a Vatican investment into prime real estate in London after Mincione.
“It’s possible that, in some cases, that the Holy See was not just ill-advised but also frauded,” said the Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero, the Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy who is charged with spearheading the Vatican financial reform, in an interview with Vatican outlets in early October.
“I think we are learning from the mistakes and indiscretions of the past,” he added, stating that with the guidance of Pope Francis, Vatican departments are enacting “internal and external transparency, control and collaboration” that are essential for the reform.