An Italian woman tied to a disgraced cardinal sacked by Pope Francis has been arrested in Milan, accused of using the pope’s charity money to buy expensive leather furniture, Prada shoes and handbags, and Chanel perfume.
Cecilia Marogna, 39, who calls herself an “intelligence expert,” was detained on an Interpol warrant generated by Vatican investigators who suspect her of helping Cardinal Angelo Becciu—sacked by Pope Francis earlier this month—to embezzle hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican’s charitable arm. Italian media have suggested that she is in fact the cardinal’s secret lover, which she denies.
She is awaiting an extradition order to the Vatican, the first time the Holy See judiciary has ever tried to extradite someone to face a criminal trial.
Marogna, who—like Becciu—is from Sardinia, told Corriere della Sera in an exclusive interview that she is an “analyst” and an “intelligence expert esteemed by the leaders of Italian secret services,” and not Becciu’s secret lover, as has been reported.
She admitted receiving some €500,000 over a four-year period from the cardinal, which she insists was used for “humanitarian services” to set up a “parallel diplomacy” arm to protect Vatican embassies in the Middle East and Africa from terrorist attacks. But a leaked dossier obtained by the Italian press instead alleges that she used most of the cash on herself, spending €12,000 on a luxurious leather armchair, €2,200 on Prada shoes and handbags, €1,400 on expensive Tod’s shoes, and a whopping €8,000 on Chanel perfume.
Becciu and another prelate also under investigation by the Vatican allegedly funneled the money through a Slovenian company, though the dossier shows that Marogna never issued invoices for any of the money she received for her “humanitarian services.”
She confirmed to Corriere della Sera that she did, in fact, buy personal items, but suggested that at least one of the expensive designer handbags was for the wife of a Nigerian friend who was able to hook her up with the president of Burkina Faso to “facilitate the solution of a crisis.” The nature of this crisis remains a mystery.
Marogna also suggested to the Italian paper that she used some of the money to secure the release of hostages on the pope’s behalf, though the Vatican has not mentioned any such deals. When her name was first tied to Becciu after his arrest, she said that she was a “package bomb” and a “sacrificial victim of the clash between the factions opposed to the pope.” Her lawyer Gioele Magaldi told reporters that Marogna is “not the cardinal’s secret lover” and instead “the pawn of a much bigger game, a weapon of mass distraction.”