Ex-Vatican accountant in handcuffs
VATICAN CITY — The plot involved an armed police escort, a wealthy shipping family and a plan to secretly transport 20 million euros, or $26 million, from a Swiss bank account into Italy aboard a private jet. At the heart of the story of greed: a silver-haired Vatican monsignor.
The latest corruption scandal to hit the Holy See unraveled in public on Friday as Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a Vatican accountant, was arrested in the customs-dodging Swiss bank case. He is also under investigation in a separate case of alleged money-laundering involving his Vatican bank account.
Pope Francis this week established a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank to get to the bottom of the problems that have plagued it for decades and contributed to its reputation as an offshore tax haven.
Francis has made it clear that he has no tolerance for corruption or for Vatican officials who use their jobs for personal ambition or gain, and the Vatican said it was prepared to fully cooperate with Italian investigators, who described a remarkably detailed scheme allegedly spearheaded by Scarano to benefit some very wealthy friends. Prosecutor Nello Rossi identified them as the d'Amicos, one of Italy's most important shipping families from Scarano's hometown of Salerno in southern Italy.
Rossi declined to say if any of the d'Amicos were under investigation, but said developments were expected within days.
Three people were arrested on Friday: Scarano, a onetime banker who was recently suspended from his job in the Vatican's main finance office, Italian financier Giovanni Carenzio and Giovanni Zito, who until recently was a member of the Italian military police's agency for security and information.
According to wiretapped conversations, the three allegedly plotted to smuggle in some 20 million euros in cash that Carenzio held in a Swiss bank account without declaring it to authorities at the airport.
Scarano's lawyer described him as something of a middleman: The 20 million euros belonged to the d'Amicos, who had given the money to Carenzio to invest but wanted it back. Scarano was tasked with persuading Carenzio to hand it over.
Rossi said the d'Amico money was presumably being held in Switzerland to avoid paying Italian taxes.