he flag of Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Vatican investigators have evidence that an Italian woman accused of embezzling from the city state was paid by order of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, both while and after he was at the Secretariat of State, according to an Italian news report.
Italian news agency Adnkronos reported yesterday that it has seen a 13-page document sent by Vatican investigators to the Italian Minister of Justice, Alfonso Bonafede. The document was sent as support for the request for the extradition of Cecilia Marogna. CNA has not independently confirmed the report.
Marogna, 39, has been accused of aggravated embezzlement related to payments of hundreds of thousands of euros she received from the Vatican Secretariat of State to her Slovenia-based company Logsic, D.O.O., in 2018 and 2019.
She was arrested 13 October by Italian financial authorities after a warrant was issued by Vatican prosecutors through Interpol.
Although a Milan court of appeal has upheld the execution of the warrant, lawyers for Marogna have appealed her extradition to Vatican City. Pending the outcome of the appeal, Marogna is being held in a local jail after the Milan court deemed her a flight risk. She has also asked to be released from prison while she awaits her appeal hearing, scheduled for the end of this month, after which the Court of Appeal will have five days to give its decision.
According to the report by Adnkronos, Vatican investigators argued in their document that evidence shows Marogna was acting in the capacity of a “public official” under a 2013 Vatican law, and that she received a total of 575,000 euros ($683,000) from the Secretariat of State in 2018 and 2019.
The report stated that the Vatican began investigating after Slovenian police reported to them a series of abnormal movements registered by two bank accounts of Marogna’s company, Logsic D.O.O.
Logsic is registered in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in the sector of welfare and humanitarian aid.
The Vatican Gendarmerie reportedly found two bank accounts which had received nine bank transfers issued by the Secretariat of State between Dec. 20, 2018, and July 11, 2019, for a total amount of 575,000 euros, the report said.
According to the Vatican document, many of the payments made from the accounts of Logsic “concerned expenses that were not compatible with the corporate purpose of the company,” including more than 120 payments at shops such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as at luxury hotels and restaurants.
As evidence of Marogna acting as a public official, the Vatican investigators cited a Nov. 17, 2017, declaration signed by Becciu, then the second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, certifying that “Ms. Marogna provides professional service as geopolitical analyst and external relations consultant for the Secretariat of State – General Affairs Section.”
The investigators also cited as evidence the collaboration of Marogna with the Secretariat of State for the release of a Colombian nun, who was kidnapped in February 2017 while serving as a missionary in Mali.
In the document, the investigators reportedly wrote that Marogna exercised powers of a public nature, which she “debased by exploiting and bending the mandate received in her own favour.”
According to the media report, the investigators’ document included a series of conversations on the messaging platform WhatsApp between Cardinal Becciu and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who at the time was head of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State.
A 20 December 2018, conversation reportedly shows Becciu directing Perlasca to send money to Marogna in several instalments for the purported mediation of the release of the Colombian nun kidnapped from Mali in 2017.
Becciu reportedly wrote to Perlasca: “It seems that something is moving and the mediator must have the money available immediately. However, we send it to them in different tranches to the account that I will indicate below. First bank transfer: 75,000 euros made out to ‘Logsic D.O.O’. Reason: ‘voluntary contribution for a humanitarian mission.’”
Becciu also reportedly indicated, in a subsequent message, that the transfer had received the authorization of the “superior Sovereign Authority,” by which he appeared to refer to Pope Francis.
Also included in the investigators’ document were messages between Perlasca and Fabrizio Tirabassi, an official then working under Perlasca in the Secretariat of State. Perlasca reportedly sent the name of Marogna’s company and the account’s IBAN number, which is used to make money transfers in Europe.
Similar messages were exchanged on the dates of the other payments to Marogna between January and July 2019, the document reportedly states.
The Vatican investigators said that their conclusion is, “with a certainty that excludes any possible reasonable doubt, that the Secretariat of State paid to Logsic D.O.O, entrusting it to Ms. Cecilia Marogna, sums for institutional purposes.”