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Woman arrested in €500k Vatican embezzlement probe as Vatican commits to tougher measures

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

AN Italian woman has been arrested on suspicion of financial fraud related to the Vatican just days after the tiny micro-state announced an update of its AML laws.

The woman, identified as 39-year-old Cecilia Marogna, was arrested in Milan following an investigation into €500,000 she claimed to have been paid by disgraced Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Reuters reports.

Becciu was previously dismissed from a key Vatican role by Pope Francis. No official reason was given, but Becciu has been accused of involvement in several controversial financial dealings.

Marogna stressed that the money was to finance missionary work overseas as part of a goal of providing ‘parallel diplomacy’. However, senior Vatican officials suspected her of “embezzlement and aggravated misappropriation in complicity with others.”

The events were swiftly followed by commentary from the Pope himself as the Vatican hosted inspectors from European financial watchdog Moneyval.

“Sometimes, in the effort to amass wealth, there is little concern for what it comes from, whether it was produced legitimately or whether others were exploited in the process,” he said.

Moneyval personnel spent two weeks in the Vatican to examine the micro-state’s capacity to enforce AML regulations. They finished their work Wednesday.

Their two-week evaluation was described as being “held in a constructive and cooperative atmosphere.”

On foot of the visit, an agreement was reached that the territory would update its Law XVIII, which regulates the financial sector inside the city-state and, when originally enacted in 2013, opened a door for cooperation with international FIUs, particularly across the rest of Europe.

The updates are intended to align the territory with the regulations attached to the EU’s 5th AML directive, originally introduced in 2018.

They will increase transparency and tighten government control over any entity that does business through the Vatican, from non-profits to individuals to public authorities, according to Italian finance inspector Carmelo Barbagallo.

“Prudent management and effective control are not only legal but also moral duties,” Barbagallo told the National Catholic Reporter.

Commenting on the visit himself, the Pope said the measures were “meant to promote a clean finance, in which the merchants are prevents from speculating in that sacred temple.”

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