Vatican cleric Scarano charged with money-laundering

Undated file photo of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano Monsignor Nunzio Scarano spent two decades working as a Vatican accountant

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A senior Italian cleric has been charged with laundering millions through the Vatican bank, police say.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is already on trial and under house arrest on separate charges of plotting to smuggle 20m euros ($26m; £17m) into Italy.

The former Vatican accountant and two other people were served with arrest warrants on Tuesday, police said.

Last year, Pope Francis set up a commission to review the bank's activities after a series of scandals.

Analysis

Italian tax police released a video showing details of the monsignor's luxurious 17-room home in Salerno furnished with valuable antiques.

Vatican investigators are currently going through the bank accounts of many clerics working in areas of southern Italy, where organised crime syndicates operate.

Monsignor Scarano spent several months last year awaiting trial in Rome's Queen of Heaven prison, and was then released to house arrest for health reasons. American financial inspectors appointed by Pope Francis believe the monsignor may not be alone in having used the Vatican bank for money-laundering operations.

Traditionally the Vatican has opposed the right of the Italian judiciary to investigate alleged crimes committed by its officials on the grounds of diplomatic immunity and privilege, reports the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

But under Pope Francis, increased cooperation between the Vatican and Italian authorities led to the arrest of Monsignor Scarano last summer, our correspondent says.

'False donations'

On Tuesday, police seized some 6.5m euros in bank accounts and real estate, including Monsignor Scarano's luxury apartment in the southern city of Salerno.

Authorities said the latest charges against the cleric related to "false donations", which he allegedly recycled from offshore accounts through the Vatican bank.

Prosecutors allege that Monsignor Scarano got dozens of people to make contributions to a home for the terminally ill in Salerno, and used the money to pay off a mortgage on one of his properties.

Another Catholic priest has also been arrested on charges of laundering and making false statements, officials say.

Vatican bank The Vatican bank is one of the world's most secretive financial institutions

Monsignor Scarano worked for two decades as a senior accountant in a Vatican department known as Apsa (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

Vatican Bank scandal

  • September 2010: Italian police launch investigation into money laundering at the bank
  • December 2010: Vatican sets up financial authority to fight money laundering and make financial operations more transparent
  • May 2012: Bank chief Ettore Gotti Tedeschi dismissed for dereliction of duty
  • January 2013: Italian central bank suspends all bank card payments in the Vatican, citing its failure to fully implement anti-money laundering legislation
  • February 2013: German lawyer Ernst von Freyberg appointed to head bank
  • June 2013: Pope Francis sets up a commission to review the bank's activities

The division manages the Vatican's real estate holdings and stock portfolios.

The cleric was suspended from his position last year, after he was accused of conspiring to smuggle millions from Switzerland into Italy with the help of a secret service agent and a financial broker.

The trio's high-profile trial began in early December in Rome.

Officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican bank is one of the world's most secretive. It has 114 employees and 5.4bn euros of assets.

The bank is undergoing a major restructuring on the orders of Pope Francis.

He has hired an American financial services company to examine all 19,000 accounts to ensure that international rules against money laundering are being correctly observed.

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