Police slap arrested Vatican prelate with fresh money-laundering charge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 1:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 1:15am

A former Vatican prelate on trial for an alleged plot to smuggle €20 million (HK$210 million) into Italy was further charged yesterday with laundering millions of euros through the Vatican bank.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano and two other people served with arrest warrants were suspected of laundering and making false statements, police said. The others were Father Luigi Noli, a friend of Scarano who was suspended from his Vatican job last year, and a notary.

Fifty-two other people were being investigated on suspicion of abetting money laundering.

Scarano, 61, is under house arrest in his native Salerno, near Naples, and charged with conspiring to smuggle some €20 million from Switzerland with a financier and a former secret service officer for rich shipbuilder friends in Salerno. The money-smuggling trial began on December 3 in Rome.

The new charge, which came after a separate, year-long investigation, concerns suspected money laundering through his accounts at the Vatican bank.

Scarano allegedly withdrew €555,248 from his Vatican account in cash in 2009 and brought it to Italy. Since he could not deposit it in an Italian bank without drawing suspicion, he selected 50 friends to accept €10,000 apiece in cash in exchange for a cheque 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.

Police said they seized €6.5 million in real estate and bank accounts yesterday, including Scarano's luxurious Salerno apartment, filled with gilt-framed oil paintings, ceramic vases and other antiques.

Scarano worked for 22 years at a Vatican department known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the Vatican's real estate holdings and stock portfolios.

Police said 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'Amicos.

Additional reporting by Associated Press