Vatican prelate, already under house arrest, accused of money laundering

Mgr Nunzio Scarano, the Vatican prelate who is currently under house arrest after he was charged last year with allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland to Italy, has been re-arrested amid fresh allegations of financial irregularities.

The new charges relate to accusations that he used his Vatican bank accounts to launder money.

Police in the Italian city of Salerno said Mgr Scarano’s accounts had been used to transfer millions of euros in fictitious donations from offshore companies.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, prosecutors believe that Scarano asked about 60 people to sign cheques worth about 10,000 euros each, apparently to help pay off the debts of a property company. Prosecutors reportedly believe that Scarano then paid off these people with equivalent amounts in cash, using the cheques to explain other deposits.

Scarano’s lawyer, Silverio Sica, says the monsignor took money from people he believed were acting in good faith in order to pay for a home for the terminally ill. He admitted, though, that the money was used to pay off Scarano’s 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 The Associated Press.

Scarano was originally arrested in June in Rome on separate allegations that he had planned, with a business man and carabinieri officer, to smuggle 20 million euros into Italy on a private jet from Switzerland in order to avoid paying customs duties. Sica claims that in this instance Scarano in that case was merely acting as a middleman.

Scarano was removed from his position in the Vatican’s main financial office and investigators have requested that accounts at the Vatican bank be frozen. When working at the Vatican bank he became known as ‘Monsignor 500 Euro’ because he is said to have often flashed high denomination bank notes.

The initial arrest was reduced to house arrest because of Scarano’s poor health. Sica added that the new arrest warrant would be served in the same way.