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Continued: Vatican official nabbed in plot to bring 20M euro into Italy, new twist in Vatican bank probe

  • Article by: NICOLE WINFIELD , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 28, 2013 - 5:20 PM

Asked how his client responded to the accusations, Scarano's attorney, Silverio Sica, said the monsignor would respond to prosecutors' questions.

"As far as I know, Father Nunzio was only trying to help some friends and then entered a mechanism that later revealed to be dangerous for him too," he said in an interview. "I believe he did it with naivety".

The Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, is cooperating with Italian authorities and its lay board has launched an internal investigation, spokesman Max Hohenberg said. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Scarano was suspended more than a month ago and that the Vatican was taking the appropriate measures to deal with his case.

He said the Vatican hadn't yet received any request for information from Italian authorities, but said it was prepared to offer its "full cooperation."

Rossi, the Italian prosecutor, described the operation as one branch in a "mosaic" of investigations targeting the Vatican bank, which has long been a source of scandal for the Holy See.

Rossi's team of prosecutors in 2010 placed the top two Vatican bank officials under investigation for allegedly violating anti-money laundering norms during a routine transaction involving an Institute for Religious Works account at an Italian bank. They ordered the 23 million euros in the transaction seized. The money was eventually unfrozen but the two men remain under investigation.

The Swiss investigation didn't immediately appear to directly involve the Vatican Bank, but both Rossi and Vatican officials said there could be further developments.

Rossi noted that the d'Amicos were frequent contributors to Scarano's charitable account at the Vatican Bank, known as the "Fondo Anziani," a fund purportedly aimed at helping out the elderly.

Rossi's team is also working with prosecutors in Salerno on a separate money-laundering investigation involving Scarano and his Vatican bank accounts.

According to Sica, Scarano took $729,000 (560,000 euros) in cash out of his Vatican bank account in 2009 and carried it out of the Vatican and into Italy to help pay off a mortgage on his Salerno home.

The money had come into Scarano's Vatican bank account from donors who gave it to the prelate thinking they were funding a home for the terminally ill in Salerno, Sica said.

To deposit the money into an Italian bank account — and to prevent family members from finding out he had such a large chunk of cash — he asked 56 close friends to accept 10,000 euros apiece in cash in exchange for a check or money transfer in the same amount. Scarano was then able to deposit the amounts in his Italian account.

The lawyer said Scarano had given the names of the donors to prosecutors and insisted the origin of the money was clean, that the transactions didn't constitute money-laundering, and that he only took the money "temporarily" for his personal use.

The home for the terminally ill was never built, though the property has been identified, Sica said.

On Wednesday, Francis named five people to head a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank's activities and legal status "to allow for a better harmonization with the universal mission of the Apostolic See."

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