In the Vatican's continuing mega-trial focused on determining if crimes were committed in the course of a London property deal that cost the Vatican millions of dollars, attention turned again to the figure of Cecilia Marogna, a supposed security analyst who claimed she could help free a kidnapped nun in Africa.
Stefano De Santis, Vatican police commissioner and a witness for the prosecution, testified Oct. 12 that police in Slovenia contacted the Vatican to report "an Italian citizen who was carrying out a fraud against the Secretariat of State."
Marogna, an Italian who had registered a humanitarian organization in Slovenia, had been hired by then-Archbishop Angelo Becciu when he was at the Secretariat of State to help secure the release of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez, a Colombian nun kidnapped in 2017 by militants in Mali.
The nun was freed in October 2021, after Marogna -- accused of embezzlement -- already was a defendant in the Vatican trial. No evidence has been presented to suggest the payments sent to Marogna in 2018 and 2019 had any effect on the nun's release.
Cardinal Becciu, who also is one of the 10 defendants, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering. Pope Francis forced the cardinal to resign in 2020 and to relinquish the rights associated with being a cardinal.
De Santis told the court that nine bank transfers, amounting to 575,000 euros (about $560,000 today), were made to Marogna's Slovenian account from a Vatican Secretariat of State account at Credit Suisse.
The Vatican's investigations of Marogna, which included looking at posts on her Facebook account, led to the conclusion that she had little to do with security, diplomatic or humanitarian activities, but spent most of the money on personal travel and buying luxury goods, the commissioner said.
De Santis said he and the head of the Vatican police force, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, went to Cardinal Becciu's apartment in October 2020 and told him about what they were discovering about Marogna. De Santis told the court the cardinal asked them not to let anyone know about Marogna "because it would bring serious harm to him and his family."
Cardinal Becciu, addressing the court, disputed De Santis' testimony.
Agreeing that he had not wanted information about Marogna to be made public, the cardinal said it was because "it was an operation that only the Holy Father and I knew about. It was not about my family members."
In addition, the cardinal said, "when they told me that the money used by Mrs. Marogna was not used for the proper purposes, I said, 'I am ready to give what I have and reimburse the Secretariat of State, because if the money was misused, it is my fault.' I was stopped by the commander (who said), 'You are not at fault, you have been swindled.'"
"I procured the money," the cardinal told the court. "It was given to that woman because she was in charge of running an operation that the Holy Father and I were aware of. I wanted to clarify these points."