Exit Monsignor Cinquecento

The Economist

HE WAS known in his home town as “Monsignor Cinquecento”—not an allusion to the super-economic Fiats Roman Catholic priests drive in Italian television dramas, but to the €500 notes that Monsignor Nunzio Scarano (pictured) is said to have had in abundance.

Monsignor Scarano was one of three people arrested by Italian police on June 28th in an affair that has turned an unsettling spotlight on the Holy See’s financial institutions just days after Pope Francis began a clean-up of the Vatican’s scandal-plagued “bank”, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR).

Monsignor Scarano, who denies all wrongdoing, is certainly no barefoot priest. A banker before his ordination, he was appointed to a senior post in the department that manages the Holy See’s assets (from which he has been suspended since being placed under investigation earlier this month on suspicion of money-laundering). According to an Italian press report, Monsignor Scarano owns a 90% stake in a property firm and has a circle of friends that includes one of Italy’s best-known show business personalities.

Few writers of fiction would tax their readers’ credibility with a story like the one outlined in the warrant issued for the arrest of the Monsignor and his two alleged co-conspirators, both of whom also deny wrongdoing. One, Giovanni Maria Zito, is an officer in the Carabinieri police force, who was previously attached to Italy’s domestic intelligence service, the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Interna (AISI). The other is Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker, reportedly active in Switzerland and the Canary Islands. According to the financial daily Il Sole-24 Ore, the two men came into contact through a Catholic order of chivalry, the Ordine Constantiniano, that claims to be the oldest in Christendom.

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