Monsignor jailed in Vatican money-laundering scheme

A senior Italian cleric has been arrested in connection with an inquiry into a Vatican bank scandal over allegations of corruption and fraud.

As described by BBC News Europe, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano works in the Vatican’s financial administration. A secret service agent and a financial broker have also been arrested. They are suspected of trying to move 20m euros ($26m; £17m) illegally. That’s a lot of frocks to launder. I feel like I’m writing about The Sopranos again.

Pope Francis ordered an unprecedented internal investigation into the bank’s affairs in the wake of recent scandals. Hope it’s nothing like one of Eric Holder’s investigations into the too-big-for-jail banks. Jon Corzine is just on the edge of getting busted by the Commodities Futures Exchange Commission (CFEC) for stealing $1.6 billion from Global Crossing. You remember. He had no idea where the money went. Maybe he put it in his piggy bank. After all, GC dealt in pork futures.

The allegedly corrupt Italian monsignor, who until recently helped administer the Vatican’s financial assets ends up in handcuffs and is hauled off to jail in Rome, together with a financial broker friend and an Italian secret service agent. And that’s the way to do things. Put ‘em in cuffs, haul ‘em off to jail, including the broker and the Italian secret service agent. Make an example of them. Justice for Jesus! Bella, bella.

Pope Francis’ new attempt this week to impose transparency and clarity on the Vatican’s financial dealings comes at the perfect time. The clergy has been stealing for centuries. With the advent of computerized banking, the pope stands a better chance of following the money. And it’s good to see that “a sweeping internal investigation into the running of the Vatican’s own bank was announced only two days ago. The result is to be on the pope’s desk ‘promptly,’ and a cardinal on the commission of inquiry has already admitted that major reforms are necessary.”

For ages, great secrecy has been imposed by the Vatican on the bank’s functions. The Vatican has hitherto concealed its activities behind a wall of confidentiality, justified by the sovereign status of the papal enclave situated in the heart of Rome. For sure, they were laundering Mafia money from drugs, guns and anything else they could pick up a fee on for a long time.

Ironically, Monsignor Scarano, 61, worked for years as a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as APSA (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See). Hopefully, the See will see whatever peccadilloes and scams were and are going on. Scarano must have skimmed a personal fortune from this gig and stashed it in some Swiss bank, I’ll bet. This is on top of a juicy allocation he probably receives. He’s like another Corzine, only in priest drag.

He was suspended from that position “about a month ago, after his superiors learnt about an investigation into his activities”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. You think he’s getting unemployment insurance?

Monsignor Scarano has been under investigation by Italian police for a series of suspicious transactions involving the recycling through the Vatican bank of a series of cheques described as church donations. Oh baby, that’s a cute one. Change a few numbers on the checks and run them through the hopper to the appropriate accounts. Figlio di puttana! They’re all the same, the world bankers. Whores and their children!

But, Nunzio Scarano is a priest from Salerno in southern Italy, who is called “monsignor” in recognition of his seniority at the Vatican. Salerno and southern Italy is also home (click) of the Camorra, one of six Mafia-like organizations in Italy.

Father Nunzy was arrested with the two other men suspected of plotting to move 20m euros illegally from Switzerland to Italy. One, Giovanni Maria Zito, is described as an Italian secret service agent, and the other, Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker. Tre pezzo di merde! Remember, part of Vatican income is from contributions donated to the church all year round from people all over Italy and the world, poor people, middle class people, rich people, for church projects. This is a knife in the back to all.

Secretive bank

Earlier this month, the pope named a trusted cleric to oversee the management of the bank, which wiki comments has been beset by allegations of money laundering.

Wiki reports that, “Rene Bruelhart, the head of the Vatican’s new Financial Intelligence Authority, disclosed Wednesday that he had found six incidents of possible money laundering in the Vatican Bank from last year—marking the first step in what may be a new era of transparency for the scandal-stained institution. Bona Fortuna per cente anni!

“The Vatican Bank, officially called the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), manages an estimated $5 billion in assets for religious orders and Catholic charities. That’s a lot of scharola (escarole) private entity; the bank’s inner workings have long been shrouded in secrecy. In 2012, following investigations of money laundering and probes into the behavior of the top brass, Forbes called the IOR “the most secret bank in the world.” (And probably the most crooked.)

Vatican Bank scandal, a second helping

September 2010: Italian police launch investigation into money laundering at the bank.

December 2010: Vatican sets up financial authority to fight money laundering and make financial operations more transparent.

May 2012: Bank chief Ettore Gotti Tedeschi dismissed for dereliction of duty. Well that bombed quickly.

January 2013: Italian central bank suspends all bank card payments in the Vatican, citing its failure to fully implement anti-money laundering legislation. Sounds like the U.S. Congress.

February 2013: German lawyer Ernst von Freyberg appointed to head bank.

June 2013: Pope Francis sets up a commission to review the bank’s activities.

Officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the bank is one of the world’s most secretive, and most dicey. It has 114 employees and 5.4bn euros of assets. I’ll repeat “that’s a lot of scharola” for 114 people to handle.

Pope Francis has given the commission carte blanche, “bypassing normal secrecy rules,” to try to get to the bottom of the scandals which have plagued the bank for decades. Bravo to Pope Francis!

“Traditionally, the Vatican Bank has refused to co-operate with Italian authorities investigating financial crime on the grounds of the sovereign independence of the Vatican city state, the BBC’s David Willey reports from Rome.

“But Pope Francis has shown that he is now determined to get to the bottom of long-standing allegations of corruption and money laundering involving the bank, our correspondent adds.” Lotsa luck to the Pope and your correspondent.

“The Institute for the Works of Religion was a major shareholder in the Banco Ambrosiano, a big Italian bank which collapsed in 1982 with losses of more than $3bn.” That’s a lotsa more scharola.

Coming as no surprise, “Its chairman, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London—in a murder disguised as a suicide. Mr. Calvi had close relations with the Vatican.” And to have close relations with the Vatican means having close relations with organized crime, whose works are not of religion but trading in stolen money all over the world, in fact to help finance American banks as well.

So, Pope Frances, all I can say in parting is you’ve got one hell of a job on your hands. I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China, as the saying goes. But keep the faith and keep away from all the “Guidos” and Mafiosi who want to play funny money with you. No good will come of it. You might end up hanging not from a bridge but another cross. Remember, Jesus had a thief hanging on a cross on each side of him when he was crucified. Perhaps you have to play, “Render under Caesar all that is Caesar’s and rend unto God all that is God’s. The trick is to possess and teach the moral judgment and authority, about which is which.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net.

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