Police in Italy on Friday arrested three men including a bishop in connection with financial fraud connected to the Institute of Religious Works of the Vatican. Officials believe this likely is the most high-profile bust for money laundering related to the Vatican.
Bishop Nunzio Scarano, who is a senior bank official for the Vatican from Salerno, which is near Naples, was arrested only two days after a order from Pope Francis was sent out to probe the internal activities of Patrimony of the Apostolic See, better known by most as the Vatican’s bank. The pontiff’s order followed a number of scandals.
Scarano, who along with Giovanni Maria Zito, a former officer of intelligence and Giovanni Carinzo, a financial broker, was arrested and reportedly was under investigation for a number of weeks, following word that he had been connected to a number of transactions that were suspicious at the bank.
Investigators said Scarano paid $520,000 to Zito to transport illegally $26 million in cash to Italy from Switzerland. The plot involved using a plane owned by the Italian government.
Press officials from the Vatican said no comment was available on the news, but that Scarano was temporarily suspended from working at the bank.
On Wednesday, the pontiff named a commission of five members to investigate the administrative structure as well as activities of the bank to allow for more harmonization with the mission of the Apostolic See.
Two of the five members of the commission were Americans: Monsignor Peter Wells, a Vatican foreign ministry official, and Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who was also the United States Ambassador to the Vatican during the George W. Bush presidency.