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.
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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid