Vatican cleric accused in plot to smuggle millions of euros into Italy

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Vatican cleric accused in plot to smuggle millions of euros into Italy

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A senior cleric in the Vatican has been arrested on suspicion of trying to help rich friends illegally bring millions of euros into Italy.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration. He is involved in another investigation by magistrates in southern Italy.

Scarano is charged with being involved in an attempt to help friends bring 20 million euros from Switzerland into Italy by plane, working with a secret service agent and a financial broker. The pair have also both been detained by police.

He also stands accused of stealing 560,000 euros out of a Vatican Bank account. The priest is said to have taken out small amounts at a time and given them to friends who in turn wrote him cheques. The money was apparently used to pay off a mortgage.

The arrests are part of an ongoing Italian police investigation into the Vatican bank.

Vatican analyst, Marco Politi, says there is a lack of accountability in the Vatican: “There are still too many priests or Monsignors who have too much money and nobody knows why and as priests have the right to have an account in the Vatican bank, I think that in the future this right will be limited.”

Politi added: “Certainly the new scandal will help to accelerate the reform and the re-organisation of all the financial system of the Holy See.”

Sacarano’s arrest comes just days after Pope Francis announced a commission of inquiry into the scandal-hit bank.

The Pope has said he wants to see the bank operating in “harmony” with the mission of the Church.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement that Vatican authorities were ready to cooperate with the Italian investigation, but had so far received no official request.

He said the AIF, the Vatican’s own financial authority, was following the case and would take action if necessary.