Vatican cleric in cash smuggling scandal

A senior Catholic cleric arrested in a plot to smuggle millions of euro into Italy controlled vast amounts of money and felt he could act with impunity because of his connections to the Vatican bank, claims a judge’s investigative document.

In the latest blow to the Vatican’s image, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, was arrested on Friday along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial broker.

The three had plotted to smuggle €20 million into Italy from Switzerland for members of a family of shipowners in southern Italy, an investigating magistrate told reporters.

The magistrate said that the pivotal protagonist was Scarano, who worked until recently as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, and that he owned numerous pieces of property and had accounts in the Vatican bank.

A 48-page document in which Judge Barbara Callari approves magistrates’ requests for the arrests, and which was obtained by Reuters, contains transcripts or summaries of wiretaps, emails, letters, checks and other results of police investigations. It describes the development of a plot that reads like a spy novel, involving a private plane that was to collect the cash in Switzerland, burned cell phones, a shady financier and an allegedly corrupt secret service agent to slip the money past customs.

The case came as an embarrassment to Pope Francis who, two days earlier, set up a commission of inquiry into the scandal-plagued Vatican bank.

The Vatican, which has pledged to cooperate with the magistrates, said Scarano was suspended several weeks ago when magistrates in Salerno put him under a separate investigation.


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