MONSIGNOR 500 AND THE SACRED MILITARY CONSTANTINIAN ORDER OF ST GEORGE
‘Monsignor 500’ and suitcases full of cash in Vatican bank scandal
The Catholic priest at the heart of a Vatican money scandal has claimed he did not act for personal gain when he attempted to bring 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland illicitly.
Nick Squires in Rome 5:03PM BST 30 Jun 2013
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, will be questioned by investigators on Monday in the 17th century Rome prison in which is being held, as more details emerge of the complex scheme.
Nicknamed by fellow priests “Monsignor 500” for his habit of flashing a wallet full of 500 euro notes, he has insisted that he committed no crime when he allegedly tried to import the cash on board a private jet.
“Monsignor Scarano will answer all questions and will explain what his role was, showing that he had no personal interest in the matter,” Silverio Sica, his lawyer, said.
“There was no profit in it for him and he acted purely in a spirit of friendship.”
That “friendship” was with the heirs to a large Neapolitan shipping company, to whom the 20 million euros allegedly belonged.
Msgr Scarano, who worked in a bank before joining the priesthood in the 1980s, allegedly funnelled hundreds of thousands of euros through accounts he held with the Vatican bank, known officially as the Institute for the Works of Religion.
He worked as a senior accountant in a Vatican department that manages the Holy See’s property and other assets, but was suspended a month ago when the corruption allegations came to light.
His close contacts with the Vatican bank “enabled him to act as a very private and illicit branch” of the bank, according to Nello Rossi, one of the prosecutors in the case, amid questions about how much his superiors knew about his illicit activities.
One of the accounts he held with the Vatican bank was for his personal use while the other was designated “fondo anziani” – funds for old people.
Msgr Scarano allegedly conspired with Giovanni Maria Zito, an agent with one of Italy’s secret services who is now being held in a military prison, and Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker from Pompeii near Naples, to smuggle the 20 million euros from a UBS bank account in Lugano, in Switzerland, into Italy.
The money – in 500 euro notes – was reportedly packed into a suitcase ready for the flight last summer, but the plot failed to come to fruition.
The alleged scam came to light because Msgr Scarano’s telephones were being wiretapped by police in connection with a separate corruption investigation into his activities in Salerno, near Naples.
Msgr Scarano reportedly met the broker and the intelligence agent through The Constantine Order of St George, a chivalric order that claims to have been founded in 313AD by the Emperor Constantine and which was later linked to the Bourbon royals who ruled parts of Italy.