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Former Vatican Official Accused of Moving Cash in Fake Donations

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The Vatican Bank Stands in Vatican City
The Italian investigation caused a shakeup at the Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, and Paolo Cipriani resigned as director in July. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s finance police advanced their investigation into alleged money laundering at the Vatican, saying “fake donations” were used to move funds from offshore companies through the Holy See’s bank.

The cash was allegedly deposited into accounts used by Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a priest and former accountant at the Vatican, who was arrested in June for plotting to cross the Swiss-Italian border with 20 million euros ($27 million), Italian finance police said today. Assets were seized as part of the probe, according to a finance police statement issued in the southern city of Salerno.

The Italian investigation caused a shakeup at the Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, and Paolo Cipriani resigned as director in July. Pope Francis, in his first year as pontiff, has sought to tighten oversight of the bank.

“The Vatican has been collaborating with Italian authorities from the very beginning of this investigation and continues to do so,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said by phone. “The Vatican has responded to all the requests for information received from Italy and is waiting for a response to its own information requests.”

The police didn’t enter the bank, Lombardi said.

Scarano was taken into custody in June along with an Italian secret service official and a financial broker. The alleged plot to bring cash from Locarno, Switzerland, to Italy by private plane was never put into effect because the broker reneged on the deal, a Rome prosecutor said at the time.

Scarano is under house arrest, the police said today. A total of 52 people are under investigation in the case on suspicion of crimes including money laundering.

Silverio Sica, a lawyer for Scarano, did not answer a mobile telephone number provided by his secretary.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net; Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome at amigliaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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