Vatican Official Denies Fraud Charges in Italian Castle Sale

By Nick Squires
The Telegraph
May 28, 2015

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia isaccussed of fraud releating to the purchasing of an Italian castle Photo: Getty Images

A senior Vatican official is under investigation for alleged fraud and embezzlement in relation to the sale of a 14th century castle in Umbria, in the latest scandal to hit the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who is the head of a Vatican department, is accused of buying the castle in central Italy at an artificially low price with the intention of later selling it at its market value, in an alleged scam that would have netted a profit of nearly 4 million (?2.9 million).

San Girolamo castle, in the town of Narni, was owned by the local council before being sold to the Church.

San Girolamo castle

Council officials are alleged to have colluded with the archbishop, selling the castle four years ago for a knock-down price of 1.76 million about a third of its true value.

Prosecutors in the nearby city of Terni suspect that the alleged conspirators planned to manage it for a few years, either as an upmarket guesthouse or for religious purposes, and then sell it for 5.6 million.

Pope Francis has not watched television since 1990

Archbishop Paglia, 70, who is head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, is alleged to have illegally used diocese funds to purchase the property.

Nine other people are under investigation, including the former mayor of Narni and two employees of the diocese of Terni, where Archbishop Paglia formerly served as bishop.

Pope Francis (L) greets archbishop Vincenzo Paglia earlier this year

The castle was sold to a property company, Imi Immobiliare, that was headed by one of the arrested diocesan employees.

The purchase of the castle albeit at a drastically reduced price knocked a hole in the coffers of the diocese of Terni, which was already one of the most indebted in Europe, with a deficit of around 25 million.

Archbishop Paglia and the other people under investigation now have 20 days in which to present their defence.

The archbishop denied any wrongdoing. "I remain at the disposition of the investigating authorities and I have full confidence in the justice system," he said in a statement.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's chief spokesman, said: "We at the Vatican have nothing in particular to say about this affair. We trust that the magistracy will do its work well."

Once a Roman settlement, Narni claims to sit at the geographical centre of Italy. The hilltop town is known for its Roman cisterns, a warren of medieval streets and alleys in its historic centre and commanding views of the Umbrian countryside.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.