Martedì, 16 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Vatican official arrested in money-flight probe

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, June 28 - Italian police on Friday arrested a
prelate in charge of Vatican accounts, a member of Italy's
domestic intelligence service and a financial broker in a probe
into a failed attempt to fly 20 million euros of alleged
tax-evasion proceeds from Switzerland back to Italy.
Msgr Nunzio Scarano was until recently head of analytic
accounts at the Holy See's asset-management agency APSA.
He was arrested "on suspicion of corruption and fraud" in
currency dealings along with Giovanni Maria Zito, an agent in
the AISI intelligence agency, and Rome broker Giovanni Carenzio.
Police said Scarano and Zito got a private jet to fly the
cash for three Salerno-based shipowner brothers who were friends
with Scarano.
Zito is suspected of getting 400,000 euros for arranging
cover for the flight.
Scarano was suspended a month ago after being named in a
separate probe into receiving money in Salerno.
Police said brothers Paolo, Cesare and Maurizio D'Amico,
whose fleet is based in Salerno but who are prominent in Rome
business circles, were the alleged beneficiaries of what they
called "a complex and expensive operation to evade airport
customs controls and bring back into Italy money that is
believed to be the fruit of tax evasion".
Scarano was in custody in Rome's Regina Coeli prison while
Zito is being held in a military prison at Santa Maria Capua
Vetere near Naples and broker Giovanni Carenzio in Naples'
Poggioreale jail.
Prosecutors said they were probing Scarano's "huge"
financial and property assets.
"The office has started a series of checks to clear up the
origin of the huge financial and property holdings of Msgr
Nunzio Scarano," the prosecutors' office said.
The Vatican itself said it would cooperate "fully" with the
probe, Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters.
Lombardi stressed that Scarano had been suspended after the
initial probe was opened "more than a month ago".
The Holy See has yet to receive a formal request from
relevant Italian authorities, Lombardi added.
Police said the probe into Scarano's attempt to circumvent
laws on importing foreign currency was part of a wider
investigation into suspected irregularities at the Vatican Bank,
the Istituto per le Opere Religiose (Institute for Religious
Works, IOR).
That probe concerns alleged shady transactions at IOR, in
which former president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his former No.2
were placed under investigation.
IOR, to which APSA is indirectly linked, told ANSA Friday
it aimed to "cooperate fully with Italian authorities" and
launch an internal inquiry "in line with the zero-tolerance
policy promoted by (new) president Ernst von Freyberg".
German aristocrat and industrialist von Freyberg, appointed
in February by Pope Benedict XVI in one of his last official
acts as pontiff, last month vowed to bring greater transparency
to an "august" institution which has been touched by
"unwarranted" money-laundering accusations.
Von Freyberg said the bank planned to open up and be more
transparent through the publication of its profit and loss
accounts online by the year's end and by running checks on its
19,000 account holders.
In addition, the bank will start to have a different
"communication policy", and plans to give interviews with
"qualified representatives of the international press", von
Freyberg said.
The Vatican Bank has made a series of moves to show greater
transparency since Argentinian Jesuit bishop Jorge Mario
Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March, succeeding Benedict XVI,
the first pontiff to voluntarily abdicate in 700 years.
As a new broom with a reputation for plain-talking rigour
and a lily-white image after being cleared of links with the
infamous 1970-'80s 'Dirty War' junta in his country, Francis is
reportedly keen to remove stains from IOR's reputation and get
it onto the 'white list' of countries with unimpeachable
anti-money-laundering credentials.
The new pope has vowed to take on power elites in the
Curia, or central governance, of the Catholic Church, and
recently admitted he would even have to tackle a gay lobby.
Two days ago Francis set up a pontifical commission on IOR,
to brief the pontiff on the bank's activities and make sure it
operated in harmony with the "Church's mission".
After coming into the prosecutors' cross-hairs, IOR has
started working with the Council of Europe's Moneyval
anti-money-laundering agency in a bid to make it onto the white
list.
In a report last July, Moneyval said that the Holy See had
made progress on financial transparency, but added that more
reforms were needed.
The Italian press has increasingly speculated on the fate
of the scandal-plagued bank, wondering whether the pontiff might
reorganize or shut it down.
The new IOR panel will be chaired by Cardinal Raffaele
Farina, and it will include another three prelates and Harvard
Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former United States
Ambassador to the Holy See.
Last month the Vatican's financial watchdog published its
first annual report on the Holy See's efforts to combat money
laundering and funding terrorism.
In it, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) said it
had uncovered six cases of suspect transactions in 2012, a
notable increase since 2011 when only one such case was flagged.
Two of those cases were sent on to Vatican prosecutors for
a probe.
AIF Director Rene' Bruelhart did not go into the specifics
of the transactions, specifying only that "they were not tied to
financing terrorism".
Established by Benedict XVI in 2010, the AIF is charged
with monitoring the commercial and monetary activities of
Vatican agencies like the Vatican Bank.
Over the years the Vatican Bank has acquired a murky image
on transparency.
There have been allegations that IOR was used to launder
money most notably by 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi, the former
head of Italy's biggest private bank, whose body was found
hanging under Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected
victim of the Sicilian mafia.
IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the
1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part
of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy's old
political establishment.
More recently, there has been a series of Italian TV
reports and a best-selling book claiming to show how individuals
have used IOR to squirrel away money, dodging Italian
regulations.
A Vatican report to Moneyval is due in December on the
basis of a questionnaire the Holy See will receive in September.

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