Friday, June 28, 2013

Vatican Bank Cleric Arrested in €20m Corruption Inquiry

Vatican bank cleric Vatican bank cleric Monsignor Nunzio Scarano Photograph: Francesco Pecoraro/AP     Vatican bank cleric Monsignor Nunzio Scarano Photograph: Francesco Pecoraro/AP Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, accused of trying to help friends bring millions of euros into Italy from Switzerland by plane
A senior Vatican cleric suspected of trying to help rich friends bring millions of euros into Italy illegally has been arrested as part of an investigation into the Vatican bank.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, is involved in another investigation by magistrates in southern Italy.

He was arrested in a parish in the outskirts of Rome and taken to the city’s Queen of Heaven jail, his lawyer, Silverio Sica, said. Also arrested in the investigation were a member of Italy’s secret services and a financial broker.

Sica said Scarano was accused of being involved in an attempt to help friends bring €20m (£17m) into Italy from Switzerland by plane, in league with the secret service agent and a financial intermediary.

The lawyer, who had access to the charge sheet, said the money never left Switzerland. Detectives identified the secret service agent as Giovanni Zitto and the broker as Giovanni Carenzio. It was not clear what role the bank had, if any, in the latest developments.

A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said Vatican authorities were willing to co-operate with the investigation, but had so far received no official request. He said the AIF, the Vatican’s financial authority, was monitoring the case and would take action if necessary.

The Institute for Religious Works, the Vatican’s bank. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The arrests came two days after the Vatican announced Pope Francis had set up a commission of inquiry into the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which has been hit by a numerous scandals over the years.

Scarano worked for years as a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. He was suspended from his duties several weeks ago when he was placed under investigation by magistrates in the southern city of Salerno, his home town.

In that inquiry, Sica said wealthy friends had donated money to Scarano to help him build a home for the terminally ill. According to the lawyer, his client wanted to use that money to pay off his mortgage so he could sell a property in Salerno and use the proceeds to construct the facility.

In an apparent attempt to cover his tracks, Scarano has been accused of taking €560,000 in cash out of his account in the Vatican bank a little at a time, usually €10,000 and giving it to friends who then gave him cheques. He deposited the cheques into a separate bank account to pay off the mortgage.