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Vatican Official Arrested Over Alleged $26 Million Scheme

Posted: June 28, 2013

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Authorities said Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was plotting to help friends smuggle the money by jet from Switzerland to Italy. Scarano is already under investigation for money laundering.

A Vatican official already under investigation for money laundering was arrested after police say they caught him and two other men plotting a scheme that would bring in 20 million euros (about $26 million) in cash into Italy from Switzerland on a jet.

Prosecutors say Monsignor Nunzio Scarano said the money belonged to some friends, according to The Associated Press. The wire service talked to Nunzio's attorney Silverio Sica and reports:

"Sica said Scarano was a middleman in the Swiss operation. Friends had asked him to intervene with a broker, Giovanni Carenzio, to return 20 million euros they had given him to invest. Sica said Scarano persuaded Carenzio to return the money, and an Italian secret service agent, Giovanni Maria Zito, went to Switzerland to bring the cash back aboard an Italian government aircraft. Such a move would presumably prevent any reporting of the money coming into Italy.

"The operation failed because Carenzio reneged on the deal, Sica said.

"Zito, nevertheless, demanded his 400,000 euro commission. Scarano paid him an initial 200,000 euros by check, Sica said. But in a bid to not have the second installment of the commission deposited, Scarano filed a report for a missing 200,000 check, even though he knew Zito had it, Sica said."

The New York Times veers a bit into speculation, saying Scarano had been suspended as an accountant for the Vatican bank, after prosecutors opened an investigation for money laundering.

The newspaper reports:

"Only priests, religious, Catholic institutions, employees of Vatican City State and diplomats accredited to the Holy See are allowed to have accounts at the Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion, but rumors have long swirled about whether accounts were used as fronts for other interests, including organized crime and Italian politicians.

"In the past, the Italian prelates who controlled the Vatican Bank tended to see any inquires into possible malfeasance as an attack on its sovereignty. Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and Francis have tried to make the Vatican Bank more transparent.

"It was not immediately clear whether the Vatican was cooperating with Italian authorities or whether the arrests stemmed from several suspicious transactions — six in 2012 and seven in the first half of 2013 — that Vatican officials said they had flagged and brought to the attention of the Vatican's own internal prosecutors."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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