Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a high ranking Vatican accountant and two others were arrested on Friday, June 28 and accused of several crimes including a plot to allegedly smuggle $26 million in cash from Switzerland into Italy.
According to Hanna Roberts of The Daily Mail, “Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the bishop of Salerno, and the chief accountant for the Vatican’s vast property portfolio, has been taken into custody along with an Italian secret agent Mario Zito and broker Giovanni Carenzio.
“Scarano, 61, who worked at Deutsche Bank before taking ecclesiastical vows, is accused of fraud, corruption, and other charges, as part of a wider investigation into the Vatican Bank.
“According to attorney Silverio Sica, Scarano was a middleman in the Swiss operation. Friends had asked him to intervene with Carenzio to return 20 million euros [$26 million, according to ABC News] they had given him to invest.
“Sica said Scarano persuaded Carenzio to return the money, and an Italian secret service agent, Giovanni Maria Zito, went to Switzerland to bring the cash back aboard an Italian government aircraft.
“Such a move would presumably prevent any reporting of the money coming into Italy. The operation failed because Carenzio reneged on the deal, Sica said.”
On Friday, June 28, Nick Schifrin and Giulia Saudelli of ABC News gave more details about the plot.
According to Schifrin and Saudelli, “In the arrest today, Scarano’s friends approached him and asked him to bring the money back into Italy from Switzerland, according to prosecutors in Rome. Giovanni Maria Zito, a former intelligence agent and current member of the Italian military and secret service, then arranged for a private plane and plotted how to avoid customs agents and have the money driven back to Scarano’s home with an armed [escort]. Zito agreed to the plot in exchange for $520,000.
“Zito hired the private plane while on sick leave and flew with Carenzio to Locarno, Switzerland, according to prosecutors. Carenzio was supposed to collect the money from a Swiss bank on behalf of his friends but never did because the broker called off the plot after deciding it was too complicated.”
Schifrin and Saudelli added that Scarano has been accused of other crimes.
According to Schifrin and Saudelli, “The Vatican today said… Scarano had been suspended from his job more than a month ago because of a separate allegation of laundering. In that inquiry, Scarano is accused of taking more than $700,000 donated for terminally ill patients and using it to pay off a personal mortgage.
“He did so, according to investigators, by withdrawing $16,000 at a time, giving it to 56 different friends, who then paid him back with checks so he could avoid detection.”
The arrests happened two days after Pope Francis I created a special commission on Wednesday, June 26, to investigate accusations of fraud and corruption that go back at least 30 years. The commission will report directly to the pope and bypass many of the Vatican’s traditional secrecy rules.
According to Roberts, “Francis said he needed to ensure the bank was running ‘in harmony’ with the church. According to a writ no one is allowed to refuse the commissioners information.”
Schifrin and and Saudelli added that the pope is considering radically restructuring the Vatican Bank or possibly closing it.