Italian police on Friday arrested a prelate, a financial broker and a former agent of the Italian Secret Service on corruption charges as part of a plot to transport 20 million euros from Switzerland to Italy in a private plane.
The priest, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano of Salerno, had already been suspended from his position as a member of the administration that manages the Vatican’s real estate assets (the APSA) about a month ago, as part of a separate money laundering investigation in connection with the probe into the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), as the Vatican bank is popularly known.
An investigation into Scarano’s bank account at the IOR led to the discovery of the suspected racket.
Scarano was arrested along with a broker and former member of the Italian secret services Giovanni Maria Zito, who owned the private jet used to transport the cash. The money allegedly belonged to friends of Scarano. Zito reportedly received received 400,000 euros for the service.
According to Vatican Radio, The Holy See has not yet received any requests from Italian authorities on the matter, but intends to cooperate fully.
Only priests, religious, Catholic institutions, employees of Vatican City State and diplomats accredited to the Holy See are allowed to have accounts at the IOR, but the bank is rumored to host accounts that are fronts for other interests, including Italian politicians and organized crime.
Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and Francis have tried to make the Vatican Bank more transparent amid continued money laundering, even after the bank was embroiled in scandal through the 1990s for allegedly laundering heroin profits for the Gambino crime family.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis appointed a trusted prelate, German lawyer Ernst von Feyberg, to direct the Vatican Bank. On Wednesday, the pope created a committee to oversee reforms and report directly to him on the bank’s progress.
The five-member panel includes two from the United States; Monsignor Peter Bryan Wells, a member of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School.