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.
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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs