Vatican Accountant Arrested in Smuggling of Millions of Dollars

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Friday, 28 Jun 2013 01:28 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A senior accountant for the Vatican, an Italian secret service agent, and a financial broker have been arrested by authorities for allegedly trying to transfer millions into Italy from Switzerland illegally.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, was already being investigated by law enforcement for "suspicious transactions" in connection with his Vatican account before the arrest, said the Catholic Herald. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Catholic Herald that Scarano had been suspended from his job at the Vatican bank “for over a month, as soon as his superiors were informed that he was under investigation.”

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Reuters reported Friday the Vatican had announced earlier this week that it was setting up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which has been plagued with scandals.

Magistrate Nello Rossi told Reuters that Scarano had planned to bring up to $52 million into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy. Rossi added that he was already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering, and the latest arrests stemmed from that.

Scarano was arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome's Queen of Heaven jail, Reuters reported.

Magistrate Stefano Pesci said to Reuters that there was no indication that the Vatican bank itself was directly involved in the attempt to bring the money into Italy, but that the investigation was continuing. Rossi said one of the investigation's challenges is following the money trail to its original source.

"We are trying to determine the origin of the vast amount of money that was at the disposal of Scarano, who is the holder of several accounts at IOR," Rossi told Reuters.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said to Reuters that Vatican authorities are waiting for an official request to cooperate but said the Vatican will provide any help necessary in the case. Lombardi told Reuters that the FIA, the Vatican's own financial intelligence authority, was already following Scarano's investigation.

Rossi said authorities would eventually need to question Vatican officials, according to Reuters. He said Scarano worked for a German bank before he became a priest. Scarano would later rise to senior accountant for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, Reuters wrote.

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