Woman arrested amid Vatican financial scandal claims she worked in ‘parallel diplomacy’
MILAN, Italy, October 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― A woman associated with the Vatican’s latest financial scandal was arrested yesterday in Milan.
Cecilia Marogna, 39, described as Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciù’s “security advisor”, has been accused of embezzlement. Vatican investigators allege that Marogna, who received €500,000 ($588,000 US) from the Holy See for “secret” humanitarian works in Africa and Asia, used almost half the money to buy handbags and other luxury goods. Marogna was arrested by the Italian financial police after the Vatican issued an international arrest warrant through Interpol.
Marogna, like Becciù, is from the Italian island of Sardinia. According to the Sardinian Post, it is “the first time Milanese judges must decide on an extradition to the Vatican.” Milan’s Court of Appeal will have to decide within 48 hours of the arrest if it was warranted but the actual extradition to the Vatican city-state could take weeks. The Post noted that Marogna might appeal to the Italian Supreme Court.
Il Messaggero reported last night that Marogna had received the money in “different slices” between December 2018 and July 2019. The money was deposited into the bank account of her company Logsic, which has its headquarters in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
“Of that approximate 500,000 euros, however, almost 200,000 was spent on clothes, restaurants and luxury accessories,” Il Messaggero stated and detailed that, among other expenditures, €2,000 went to Prada and €8,000 to Chanel.
Logsic itself is alleged to be a shell company, with a closed office “without even a name plate” at its Slovenian address and a post office box “shared with five other companies.”
“The credit transfers in question would have been approved when Becciù had already been followed as Substitute of General Affairs by [Archbishop] Edgar Pena Parra, but it would have been the [Cardinal] who asked Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, at that time the head of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State, to honor the deal made with the managing director of Logsic,” Il Messaggero reported.
The story of “Cardinal Becciù and the lady” first seized the attention of the Italian press last week after a television news show claimed to have evidence that Marogna had spent thousands of the Vatican’s euros, thanks to the cardinal, on luxury items. In interviews afterwards, Marogna denied that she had a familial or any kind of improper relationship with Becciù. She said that she had met the cardinal in 2016 and had offered to work for him in resolving tricky problems abroad in her capacity as a diplomatic expert.
“I received money from him because I am an expert in geopolitics and parallel diplomacy,” Marogna told Italian newspaper “Domani”.
The businesswoman said that she had used the money she had been paid to do the work she had been asked to do: “create relationships and contacts in difficult countries. I did reports and analysis, so it is fair that I was paid,” Marogna declared.
“I’m not a con artist.”
The luxury goods she bought were used to further these ends, she maintained, and claimed that the money covered work done over four years. But some of the money, Marogna admitted, she took as her fee.
“It’s not like I’m a missionary,” she observed.
This is the latest of a series of shocks involving Cardinal Becciù’s financial dealings as the second most senior official of the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018. On September 24, the Vatican released a terse note stating that Becciù had resigned as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and from the rights connected with the cardinalate. Shortly after, an Italian newspaper alleged that the cardinal had been involved in questionable financial transactions, including the transfer of large sum of Vatican money to a charity administered by one brother, the patronage of the carpentry firm of another brother, and the patronage of a food-and-drink company owned by a third brother.
At a press conference the next day, Becciù stated that he had had an uncomfortable meeting with Pope Francis, who told him that the financial police had accused the cardinal of embezzlement.
Becciù is also alleged to have interfered with the clean-up of the Vatican finances mandated by Pope Francis. In April 2016, the then-Substitute for General Affairs cancelled an external audit planned by Cardinal Pell, the then-Prefect for the Economy.
“Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place. When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place,” Catholic News Agency reported in 2019.