Vatican bank arrests mark new hard line

The Independent (UK)


The timing was neat. Just two days after Pope Francis set up a commission to investigate the Vatican bank, known in Italian by the  acronym IOR, meaning Institute for Religious Works, a high-ranking priest who worked for it, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, was arrested in Rome along with two other men and accused of corruption.

Father Scarano, ordained aged 35 after a first career as a banker and now in custody, had already been suspended on suspicion of involvement in money laundering. In the new case, it is alleged that the three men tried to smuggle €20m into Italy from Switzerland, presumably to avoid paying Italian duty on it.

The priest is known to his friends as “Monsignor 500” because of the number of €500 bills he carries around. In the earlier case, which is still under investigation, he is said to have withdrawn €560,000 from his IOR account to pay off a mortgage on his home in Salerno, south of Naples. The money, it is charged, consisted of donations by churchgoers who believed it was going towards building a home for the terminally ill. It is alleged the monsignor gave 56 friends €10,000 each in cash, asking them for cheques or money transfers in exchange, thus enabling him to pay the cheques into his personal Italian account. Father Scarano’s lawyer has said that he declares himself “absolutely innocent”. The home for the terminally ill, meanwhile, remains unbuilt.

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