Senior Vatican cleric's arrest for smuggling stranger than fiction
Police wiretaps, private planes, burned cell phones and overall complicity reads like spy novel
In yet another blow to the Vatican's image, a Senior Vatican Cleric has been arrested with two others in an international money smuggling case. Sixty-one-year-old Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican's financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary. Scarano was already under investigation in a convoluted case that reads like a spy novel.
It's expected the incident will prompt untold embarrassment to Pope Francis, who has pointedly rejected the ostentatious trappings of office and sought to stress the importance of a simple life of devotion.
The Vatican reports Francis has set up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which has been hit by a number of scandals in the past decades.
Arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome's Queen of Heaven jail, Scarano had hatched a plot to bring up to $52 million into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy, magistrate Nello Rossi says. Rossi is already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering.
Scarano is under separate investigation in southern Italy in relation to his accounts in the Vatican bank.
Scarano engaged Giovanni Zito, a paramilitary Carabiniere policeman on loan to the secret services, to help him get the money last July, which was in a Swiss bank, into Italy without tax and customs controls, Rossi says.
The third person arrested was Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker with offices in Switzerland and the Canary Islands and who was acting as the fiduciary for the owners of the money.
It's not yet known how the money got to Switzerland in the first place.
The three originally planned to bring back 40 million Euros in cash. The amount was later reduced it to 20 million Euros. A private plane went to Locarno from Rome and waited several days before returning to Rome empty-handed. The cash never left Switzerland because of disagreements and nervousness among the three, Rossi said. Cell phones used in the caper were later burned.
The plane was to have been met on the runway of a Rome airport and the cash taken under armed escort to Scarano's home in Rome, Rossi said, calling the plot "intricately planned."
Zito, now serving time in a military prison, demanded the payment he had been promised for his services. Scarano gave Zito two checks, one for 400,000 Euros and another for 200,000 Euros. Zito cashed the first check but Scarano blocked the second before Zito could cash it by filing a false report that it had been lost.
Asked if money laundering was involved, Rossi said that would depend if the continuing investigation determined that the original source of the money was criminal activity.
"We are trying to determine the origin of the vast amount of money that was at the disposal of Scarano, who is the holder of several accounts at IOR," Rossi said.
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Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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