Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2014 / 00:04 am
An arrested priest who formerly served as an accountant in the Vatican now faces charges he falsely solicited donations, laundered them through the 'Vatican bank', and put them to his personal use.
The Italian legal charges concern Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked for the Vatican department known as the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See. His former department manages the Holy See's investments.
On Jan. 21, Italian authorities seized about 6.5 million euros ($8.8 million) in bank accounts and real estate, including the priest's luxury apartment in Salerno, the BBC reports. The latest charges are related to allegations he conveyed "false donations" through the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, from offshore accounts.
Italian authorities said Msgr. Scarano falsely solicited dozens of people for donations to a home for the terminally ill in Salerno, then used the money to pay off a mortgage.
Two others were served with arrest warrants. Another priest was arrested on charges of money laundering and making false statements.
The allegations arose last year, leading Vatican authorities to suspend Msgr. Scarano from his job in early June 2013, and to freeze his funds on July 9. A Vatican investigation of the monsignor resulted in an 89-page dossier about his activities.
Msgr. Scarano was arrested on June 28, 2013 on other allegations of corruption. He allegedly planned to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy aboard an Italian government airplane. He had the cooperation of an Italian secret service agent and a financial broker.
The priest is currently under house arrest. He and his alleged conspirators in the money smuggling have been on trial in Rome since December.
The Vatican bank has been undergoing reforms to encourage transparency and compliance with international financial standards to combat money laundering. Benedict XVI started the reform process, which is continuing under Pope Francis.
Vatican financial reform was begun in 2009, when the Holy See signed a monetary agreement with the European Union, and issued an anti-money laundering law the following year.
Vatican City underwent an evaluation by the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee in 2011, after which it amended and improved its anti-money laundering law. In July, 2012 the Vatican received a generally positive evaluation from Moneyval.
The Holy See and Italy last year signed an agreement to exchange information that helps prevent money laundering. Pope Francis has also hired a financial service company to examine the bank's 19,000 accounts to ensure compliance with rules to prevent money laundering.