News / Europe

Arrested Vatican Prelate Lived Lush Life in Hometown

An undated photo of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano in Salerno, Italy.
An undated photo of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano in Salerno, Italy.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Even though he was known to like to live well, police said they were startled when they entered Monsignor Nunzio Scarano's apartment after he called them one night in January to report a burglary.
    
The apartment, in one of Salerno's most up-market neighborhoods in the city center, was huge, with art lining the walls and hallways divided by Roman-style columns.
    
Scarano, a Vatican official with close ties to the Vatican bank and who is now in Rome's Queen of Heaven jail, had called police to report that thieves had stolen part of his art collection.
    
Interviews with two key chief investigators in different judicial and police departments in Salerno, in southern Italy, and police pictures of the apartment viewed by Reuters give the most detailed picture to date of Scarano's wealth.
    
The investigators disclosed that the trove of stolen goods estimated to be worth up to six million euro ($7.82 million) included six works by Giorgio de Chirico, one by Renato Guttuso, one attributed to Marc Chagall and pieces of religious art.
    
"We asked ourselves how did this monsignor come to own this place and possess these expensive works of art," said a senior investigator in the southern Italian city who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
    
"He said they were all donations. It is a luxury apartment and we asked ourselves how he could have bought it and where the money came from," he said. Magistrates suspect at least some of it may have come from illegal activity in the Salerno area.
    
Through his lawyer, Silverio Sica, Scarano said that the art work, the apartment and money in his bank accounts, including two at the Vatican bank, all came from donations and that he had done nothing wrong.
    
There was no sign of breaking and entering apart from a broken window which police believed irrelevant and the thieves were thought to have entered with a key.
    
The investigators asked tax police to dig into what Italian investigators call someone's "financial patrimony" - bank accounts, real estate, and stocks. The trail led to the Vatican bank.
    
The 700-square-meter (7,500-square-foot) luxury apartment on Via Romualdo Guarna was not the only piece of property that Scarano owned, either alone or jointly. Investigators discovered that he was part owner of three Salerno real estate companies.

But, most significantly, the investigators discovered that Scarano had withdrawn 560,000 euros in cash last year in one transaction from the Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).
    
'Don 500 euros'
    
Scarano, well-connected in local high society circles, then divided the cash, most of it in 500 euro notes, among nearly 56 friends. The Italian media has dubbed Scarano "Don 500 euros" because it was apparently his preferred denomination.
    
Each friend gave him a cashier's check drawn on Italian banks. He then took all the checks to a bank in Salerno and paid off a mortgage on his apartment, which investigators said he had purchased for about 1.7 million euros.
    
Scarano told investigators that he took the money out of his Vatican bank account because he wanted to pay off his mortgage in order to sell his apartment at a profit and use the proceeds to build a home for the terminally ill. Lawyer Sica also said this was his client's intention.
    
Investigators said they were now looking into a home for the elderly that Scarano helped build in Salerno. They said they want to determine how the home was built, where the money came from and how it was financed.
    
An investigator in a police department in Salerno said each of the checks were justified as "a donation" in local bank records.
    
"But that was a very silly trick. We saw through that so fast. They were false donations," he said. Scarano's lawyer says all donations were genuine.
    
Referring to Scarano's luxury apartment, which the prelate told investigators was furnished through donations, an investigator said:
    
"If they were donations, you don't furnish a house like that if you are a priest who has taken vows."
    
A knack for numbers
    
By all accounts, Scarano was a man of the cloth with a knack for numbers.
    
He worked at banks in Salerno and nearby Battipaglia before he became a priest at the relatively late age of 35.
    
After serving in a parish in his native Salerno, he entered the Vatican bureaucracy and eventually wound up in its central financial administration office, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, or APSA.
    
Scarano was arrested in Rome on June 28 and formally accused of taking part in a plot to smuggle 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland for his rich friends.. Sica, his lawyer, said Scarano was "just trying to help friends" get their money back into Italy.
    
An Italian secret services agent and a financial broker were also arrested in the money smuggling case, which is being investigated by Rome magistrates and is separate from the Salerno case. Both investigations are continuing.
    
The Salerno investigators have formally asked the Vatican bank - via Italy's justice and foreign ministries - for information on a number of accounts there and more information about Scarano's financial activities. When Scarano was arrested, the Vatican said it would cooperate with investigators.
    
Salerno investigators said they had not yet received any information from the Vatican.
    
Since his election in March, Pope Francis has made it clear he wants to clean up the Vatican bank. On June 26, he set up a special commission of inquiry, in a bold move to come to grips with an institution that has embarrassed the Catholic Church for decades.

($1 = 0.7672 euros)

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid