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Scarano says 'unaware of tax dodge, money went to charity'

Former prelate faces fresh interrogations in IOR-linked probe

22 January, 14:25
Scarano says 'unaware of tax dodge, money went to charity' (see related) (ANSA) - Naples, January 22 - Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican prelate under arrest on multiple counts of fraud, insists he was unaware of a tax-evasion scheme behind millions of euros he accepted to allegedly launder through the Vatican bank, his lawyer said Wednesday. Defense attorney Silverio Sica added that a large amount of the money went towards charity, which Scarano says he can prove in court. Scarano, the former head of analytic accounts at the Holy See's asset-management agency APSA, was issued a fresh arrest warrant Tuesday for involvement in the laundering of millions of euros through accounts at the powerful Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the Vatican Bank. The money, much of which investigators say came from offshore companies controlled by rich Roman ship-builder friends, the D'Amico family, was allegedly used to buy property, set up companies and pay off a mortgage.

Another priest, Father Luigi Noli, was also put under house arrest, while a notary, Bruno Frauenfelder, was temporarily banned from doing his job.

In total, 52 people have been placed under investigation in connection with the probe. Meanwhile, IOR confirmed Wednesday it had frozen all accounts linked to Scarano on the orders of a Vatican tribunal last July and was performing its own detailed internal probe. Scarano, from the port city of Salerno near Naples, was already under house arrest after being detained in June on suspicion of planning to elude customs with 20 million euros in cash for the D'Amico family. He has denied charges that he conspired with a former Italian spy and a financial broker in a failed bid to bring the money from Switzerland to Italy.

The Scarano probes are part of a wider investigation into alleged shady transactions at IOR, in which former president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his former No.2 were placed under investigation in connection with suspected money laundering. Meanwhile, the bank has made a series of moves to show greater transparency since Argentinian Jesuit bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March, succeeding Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to voluntarily abdicate in 700 years. As a new broom with a reputation for plain talking, Francis is reportedly keen to remove stains from IOR's reputation and get it onto the 'white list' of countries with strong credentials on combatting financial crime. In December the Council of Europe's Moneyval agency, a monitoring group of financial experts, praised the Vatican's progress, but it also stressed that more work needed to be done.

Scarano is scheduled for interrogations by Salerno prosecutors on Thursday.