Even though he was known to like the good life, police said they were startled when they entered Monsignor Nunzio Scarano’s apartment after he called them one night in January to report a burglary.
The apartment, in one of Salerno’s most up-market neighbourhoods in the city centre, was huge, with art lining the walls and hallways divided by Roman-style columns.
Scarano, a Vatican official with close ties to the Vatican bank and who is now in Rome’s Queen of Heaven jail, had called police to report that thieves had stolen a part of his art collection.
Interviews with two chief investigators in judicial and police departments in Salerno, 55km south of Naples, and pictures of the apartment give the most detailed picture to date of Scarano’s wealth.
The investigators disclosed that the trove of stolen goods, worth up to €6m, included six works by Giorgio de Chirico, one by Renato Guttuso, one attributed to Marc Chagall, and pieces of religious art.
“We asked ourselves how did this monsignor come to own this place and possess these expensive works of art,” said a senior investigator. “He said they were all donations. It is a luxury apartment and we asked ourselves how he could have bought it and where the money came from.”
Magistrates suspect at least some of it may have come from illegal activity in the Salerno area.
Through his lawyer Silverio Sica, Scarano said that the artwork, the apartment, and money in his bank accounts, including two at the Vatican bank, all came from donations and that he had done nothing wrong.
There was no sign of breaking and entering apart from a broken window that police believe irrelevant. The thieves were thought to have entered with a key.
Investigators discovered that Scarano had withdrawn €560,000 in cash last year in one transaction from the Vatican bank. He then divided the cash, most of it in €500 notes, among some 56 friends.
Each friend gave him a cashier’s cheque drawn on Italian banks. He then took all the cheques to a bank in Salerno and paid off a mortgage on his apartment, which investigators said he had purchased for about €1.7m.
Scarano told investigators he wanted to pay off his mortgage to sell his apartment at a profit and use the proceeds to build a home for the terminally ill.
The investigation is continuing.
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