A revolving investigation into Vatican corruption has made a mysterious new turn with the international arrest of a woman from Sardinia who is said to be close to one of the most powerful cardinals of the Holy See before his fall.
Italian financial police said on Wednesday that Cecilia Maronia had been arrested in Milan late Tuesday on a warrant issued by the Vatican. An official from the Guardia di Finanza, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agency had no further information because officials had simply carried out the order on behalf of a foreign country, the Vatican.
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Italian newspapers have reported in recent weeks that Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the one-time number two in the Vatican̵
Reports, including interviews with Marogna herself, identify the 39-year-old as a political analyst and spy who contacted Becciu in 2015 with concerns about the security of Vatican embassies in hotspots and was quickly pushed into the cardinal’s inner circle.
Maronia told Corriere della Sera that for four years, Becciu had provided her with 500,000 euros in compensation, reimbursement of tolls and consultancy fees. She defended some luxury expenses – such as designer pocket books – such as “perhaps for the wife of a Nigerian friend who was able to talk to the president of Burkina Faso.”
Becciu, who was fired by Pope Francis last month after admitting to sending 100,000 euros to the Vatican to a charity headed by his brother, insists his relationship with Maronia was legal.
In a statement from his lawyer on October 7, Becciu said that “contacts with Cecilia Maronia are strictly related to institutional matters.”
Marogna’s arrest was thought to be part of a protracted corruption investigation launched last year by Vatican prosecutors into the Holy See’s 350m-euro investment in a London real estate company, much of which was funded by donations from the faithful. .
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Vatican prosecutors are investigating a handful of Italian mediators who are accused of fleeing the Holy See for tens of millions of euros in fees while incompetent Vatican managers have stood by.
Vatican prosecutors have not yet charged anyone, and their case appears to be fraught with loopholes and potential conflicts, as the Holy See’s chiefs approved the contracts with the mediators, who ceded their voting rights to the deal and gave them huge fees. for management.
It is not so clear what fees Maronia could face if she were simply at the end of the consultancy fees approved by Beccio, which has been given broad powers to run the Secretariat of State by none other than the Secretary himself, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Becciu was the “deputy” in the State Secretariat from 2011-2018, during which time the initial investment in real estate was made. But his replacement and the current number 2 actually signed the last phase of the deal, which cost the Vatican so much money.
Neither Becciu nor his deputy have been formally identified as suspects in the case, although when Francis fired Becciu last month, he also revoked his rights and privileges as a cardinal, meaning he could eventually be tried by Vatican magistrates.
Becciu, who, like Maronha, is from Sardinia, denied wrongdoing and defended the initial investment as good.
The Vatican’s criminal investigation is unusual in that it was affected by a leak in the Italian media, which has largely reported positively on the probe’s progress and Francis’s financial efforts to clean up. Last week, for example, an Italian television program of investigation showed Vatican documents detailing Vatican transfers to Marogna’s company and its costs in high-end boutiques such as Poltrona Frau and Chanel.
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Italian Vatican commentator Luis Badilla, writing in the much-read Vatican blog Il Sismografo, noted that the president of the Vatican tribunal, a former Italian magistrate, is also an editorial commentator for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, whose statement last month led to the ouster.