'Security consultant' linked to Vatican's Becciu scandal arrested

shutterstock 1338928652 Vatican police car. | AM113/Shutterstock

The woman at the center of a Vatican financial scandal involving Cardinal Angelo Becciu has been arrested, according to Italian media reports.

Several Italian news outlets have reported that Cecilia Marogna was held by Italian financial authorities on Tuesday evening in Milan on an international warrant issued by the Vatican through Interpol.

CNA has not independently corroborated reports that Vatican investigators issued the arrest warrant.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Marogna had received more than 500,000 euros from the Holy See's Secretariat of State under the direction of its former sostituto Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Becciu has been accused of using Marogna to build "off-books" intelligence networks.

After reports emerged, Marogna told reporters that she worked as a security consultant for the Secretariat of State, and that  her work for Becciu and the Secretariat of State involved building "high-level networks" in at-risk countries and areas such as the Middle East and Africa. 

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.

In subsequent interviews with the press, 39-year old Marogna, who is also from Cardinal Becciu's native Sardinia, denied any inappropriate or familial relationship with Becciu.

Le Iene also claimed to have documents showing that Marogna used the Vatican money to buy expensive Prada and Chanel handbags, as well as other luxury goods.

In an interview with Italian daily Domani Oct. 6, Marogna said she was only being criticized "because I do my job well and I always maintain discretion and confidentiality."

There are discrepancies over whether Margona's Slovenian company was paid 500,000 or 600,000 euros by the Secretariat, but 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."

Last week, Marogna told the Corriere della Sera that she met Becciu after sending him an email in 2015 to see if he agreed with her analysis of security problems at Vatican nunciatures. In a different interview she said she knew he had previously been the nuncio to Angola.

The then-sostituto of the Secretariat of State 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," she said.

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.

Becciu was also involved in a complicated series of events and financial transactions around the purchase of the Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata (IDI), an Italian hospital that collapsed in 2013 under 800 million euros of debt through theft and fraud.

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Since the resignation of Cardinal Becciu on Sept. 24, some media commentators and outlets close to the Secretariat of State have attempted to downplay the significance of the investigation into Vatican finances, now in its second year.

Many have also attempted to minimize the scope and scale of the financial scandal currently engulfing the department, or suggested that Becciu is being persecuted by curial partisans and media outlets for personal reasons.

Marogna's arrest came shortly after the influential Vatican blog Il Sismografo implied that Giuseppe Pignatone, a respected former Italian prosecutor with a long track record of anti-mafia cases, appointed by Pope Francis last year as the head of the Vatican tribunal, might have abused his office and illegally leaked confidential documents as part of a campaign against Becciu waged through Italian media outlets. 

The consultant's arrest, however, is the second in the investigation into financial affairs at the secretariat: In June, Vatican authorities arrested Gianluigi Torzi on charges of extortion and money laundering over his role in broked the secretariat's purchase of the London building from Mincione.  

The arrest is also the second time that Italian law enforcement authorities have cooperated in the Vatican's arrest. 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."

Ed. note: This story was updated Oct. 14 after CNA was contacted by Raffaelle Mincione's spokesperson.

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