The Commercial Appeal

Vatican cleric arrested in plot

Accused in attempt to smuggle $26M

- By Nicole Winfield Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican cleric and two other people were arrested Friday by Italian police for allegedly trying to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) in cash into the country from Switzerlan­d by private jet. It’s the latest scandal to hit the Holy See and broadens an Italian probe into its secretive bank.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, already under investigat­ion in a purported money-laundering plot involving the Vatican bank, is accused of corruption and slander and was being held at a Rome prison, prosecutor Nello Rossi told reporters.

Scarano’s arrest came just two days after Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank to get to the bottom of the problems that have plagued it for decades and contribute­d to the impression that it’s an unregulate­d, offshore tax haven.

Francis has made clear he has no tolerance for corruption or for Vatican officials who use their jobs for personal ambition or gain. He has said he wants a “poor” church that is concerned for the world’s needy, and he has also noted, perhaps tongue in cheek, that “St. Peter didn’t have a bank account.”

Prosecutor Rossi said the Swiss operation involved three people, all of whom were arrested Friday: Scarano, a recently suspended accountant in the Vatican’s main finance office, Italian financier Giovanni Carenzio, and Giovanni Zito, who at the time of the plot was a member of the military police’s agency for security and informatio­n.

Rossi detailed a remarkable plot in which the three allegedly planned to bring into Italy some 20 million euros in cash that financier Carenzio held in his name in a Swiss bank account.

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