Italian woman in Vatican financial scandal investigation arrested

ROME (Reuters) - A 39-year-old Italian woman with links to a deposed Roman Catholic cardinal was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the Vatican’s latest financial scandal, Italian police and the Vatican said.

FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been caught up in a real estate scandal, speaks to the media a day after he resigned suddenly, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Cecilia Marogna had worked for Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former top Vatican official who was fired last month by Pope Francis, who accused him of embezzlement and nepotism. Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.

An Italian finance police official told Reuters Marogna was arrested in Milan. Italian media reports said she was arrested under an international warrant issued by Vatican magistrates.

A senior Vatican source said Holy See magistrates suspected Marogna of embezzlement and aggravated misappropriation in complicity with others.

In recent days, Italian media have run interviews in which Marogna said she had received 500,000 euros ($587,350) from Becciu to run a “parallel diplomacy” to help missionaries in conflict zones. She has denied wrongdoing in the interviews.

Her purported work for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, where Becciu held the No. 2 position until 2018, was not previously known.

Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, has said the cardinal knew Marogna but that his dealings with her had been “exclusively about institutional matters.”

Marogna, who like Becciu is from Sardinia, has said the funds she allegedly received from Becciu went through a company she started in Slovenia.

Becciu has also been caught up in a Vatican scandal revolving around the use of Church money to invest in a luxury building in London.

During his tenure as No. 2 in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, that department purchased a luxury building in London as an investment.

A Vatican investigation into that deal, which involved several Italian middlemen, led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of the Vatican’s police chief and the departure of the former head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).

Becciu has denied all wrongdoing in the deal and defended the purchase, saying the property has increased in value.

Reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Matthew Lewis