Vatican monsignor arrested on suspicion of money laundering
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano accused of transferring millions in fake donations through bank accounts
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano had been nicknamed "Monsignor 500" for the high-denomination bills he reportedly liked to carry around. The Vatican Monsignor has now been arrested on suspicion of transferring millions in fake donations through his bank accounts at the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works. Scarano was already on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle $26 million Euros from Switzerland to Italy.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano had been nicknamed "Monsignor 500" for the high-denomination bills he reportedly liked to carry around.
Police seized 6.5 million Euros in real estate and bank accounts this week, including Scarano's luxurious Salerno apartment, filled with gilt-framed oil paintings, ceramic vases and other antiques.
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In addition, a local priest has been placed under house arrest and a notary public was suspended for alleged involvement in the money-laundering plot. Fifty-two people are under investigation in connection with the case.
Scarano's lawyer, Silverio Sica, said his client merely took donations from people he thought were acting in good faith to fund a home for the terminally ill. Sica did admit that Scarano had been using the money to pay off a mortgage.
"We continue to strongly maintain the good faith of Don Nunzio Scarano and his absolute certainty that the money came from legitimate donations," Sica told reporters.
The Salerno investigation was already under way when Scarano was arrested in June in Rome on the smuggling accusations.
The money involved in both the Swiss smuggling case and the Salerno money-laundering case originated with one of Italy's most important shipping families, the D'Amico's.
Financial police said more than five million Euros had been made available to Scarano by the D'Amico's via offshore companies.
In a scenario provided by investigators, Scarano allegedly withdrew 555,248 Euros from his Vatican account in cash in 2009 and brought it into Italy. As he couldn't deposit it in an Italian bank without drawing suspicion, he selected 50 friends to accept 10,000 Euros apiece in cash in exchange for a check or wire transfer in that same amount.
The money then went to pay off a mortgage on a Salerno property held in the name of a company Scarano partly owned.
The D'Amico family, from Scarano's hometown of Salerno, denied its involvement in a statement made in July. Their communications firm did not immediately respond to a request seeking new comment this week. No one in the family has been arrested in either case.
Scarano had been fired from his job as an accountant in the Vatican's main financial office and Vatican prosecutors seized the 2.3 million still in his accounts after his arrest.
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