Cardinal asked Vatican police to keep woman’s embezzlement secret

A cardinal at the centre of a Vatican corruption trial asked the city-state’s police in 2020 not to disclose evidence that a woman who was working for him had embezzled money for personal use that was supposed to pay ransom for a kidnapped nun, a police officer told a court on Thursday.

Commissioner Stefano De Santis, a financial crimes specialist, testified for the second consecutive day as a prosecution witness against Cardinal Angelo Becciu, once the third-most powerful person in the Vatican and now among 10 defendants on trial on charges of corruption and other financial crimes. All 10 deny any wrongdoing.

Thursday’s testimony focused on how Becciu had hired Cecilia Marogna, a self-styled security analyst, in 2018 to free a Columbian nun who was kidnapped in Mali by al Qaeda-linked group.

Marogna, 43, received 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important department, in 2018 to 2019 when Becciu was working there. The money was sent to a company she had set up in Slovenia.

The police discovered Marogna had spent much of the money for personal use, including luxury brand clothing and visits to health spas.

According to De Santis, when he and the Vatican police chief visited Becciu’s apartment on Oct. 3, 2020 to inform him of the discovery, the cardinal asked police not to say anything because it would hurt him and his family.

Becciu contested that version in court, saying it was the police who had told him the meeting was secret. “We never told the cardinal that the meeting was secret, never,” De Santis said on Thursday. Becciu said he had told the police that the meeting had to remain secret because any leak of Marogna’s activity could jeopardize her mission to free the nun.

But De Santis confirmed his earlier testimony that the cardinal wanted the information classified purely because it would have hurt him and his family. Becciu has denied all wrongdoing and has rejected suggestions in the Italian media of an improper relation with Marogna.

The trial, which began in July 2021, primarily concerns alleged financial crimes connected to the purchase in 2014 by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of a luxury building in London.

The Vatican sold the building this year, taking an estimated hit of about 140 million euros.

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