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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora