Monsignor held in Vatican Bank inquiry
Investigators accuse three suspects of planning to illegally bring €20m into Italy
An undated photo of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano in Salerno, Italy. A Vatican official already under investigation in a purported money-laundering plot involving the Vatican bank was arrested yesterday.
The Vatican Bank IOR, a private jet, €20 million, a former secret services operative, an offshore financial broker, burned mobile phones and a Holy See monsignor – you might think that only Dan Brown could bring this lot together.
Msgr Nunzio Scarano, secret services agent Mario Zito and financial broker, Giovanni Carenzio were arrested in Rome yesterday accused of having planned to illegally “import” €20 million into Italy in July of last year.
The Vatican’s discomfort is highlighted by the fact that Msgr Scarano works for ASPA, the internal agency which oversees the administration of the patrimony of the Holy See.
The arrests, by Rome Financial police, follow an investigation into the Vatican bank, which in September 2010 saw some €23 million sequestered on suspicions that it formed part of a money laundering operation.
Magistrate Nello Rossi, the man heading that investigation, told reporters that Msgr Scarano had masterminded a plot to illegally bring €40 million into Italy for the D’Amico shipbuilding family from his home town of Salerno.
The magistrate also said that for the time being there was no indication that the Vatican bank was directly involved in the attempt to bring the money into Italy but added that the investigation was still ongoing.
Investigators yesterday said that Msgr Scarano had a “vast amount” of money at his disposal in a number of accounts, something suggesting the Vatican Bank may have been part of the “money-running” plan.
According to the investigators, Monsignor Scarano last July engaged secret services agent Zito to help him move the money from a Swiss bank, in the process avoiding both tax and customs control.
Something, however, went wrong for even though a private plane was hired and flown to Locarno, Switzerland, it returned to Italy without the money. In the meantime, Zito received a €400,000 fee for his services.
Zito had been expected to use his position to avoid airport controls and the money taken under armed escort to Msgr Scarano’s Rome address in a religious house. Magistrate Rossi said that the original plan fell apart because of arguments between the protagonists who became so worried that they burned the mobile phones they had been using.
For the Holy See, this most recent case is rendered all the more disturbing because Msgr Scarano had already been suspended from his position at APSA some weeks ago when he came under investigation in his native Salerno, again on suspicion of financial fraud. More importantly, Pope Francis has made the question of a Holy See “clean-up” a major priority of his fledgling pontificate.
During the general audiences which preceded Francis’ election last March, many of the Cardinal-electors openly expressed their concern about the running of the Vatican Bank with some of them even calling for IOR to be closed.
Francis appeared to be responding to this call earlier this week when he appointed an internal Vatican commission to look into the administration of IOR.