Posts Tagged “banking”

'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth' / Matthew 6:19a, New American Bible / PsiCop original graphicThe Vatican Bank … more formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which sounds vaguely like some kind of interfaith charity even if it’s not … is the sort of secretive institution that virtually begs to become the target of whispered tales and conspiracy theories of all kinds. And not all of this is totally unreasonable. The Vatican Bank has been the subject of a few scandals over the years. It was, for example, entangled in the failure of Italy’s Banco Ambrosiano in 1982.

For the past few years it’s been the subject of a money-laundering investigation. That inquiry had simmered for a while, then appeared to die down a year ago. But it seems to have ramped up again, as the New York Times reports, with the arrest of a prominent cleric and some other associates (WebCite cached article):

Claiming to have foiled a caper worthy of Hollywood, or at least Cinecittà, the Italian police on Friday arrested a prelate and two others on corruption charges as part of a complex plot last summer in which they say the priest — already suspected of money laundering — plotted to help wealthy friends sneak the money, the equivalent of about $26 million, into Italy while evading financial controls.

Along with the prelate, a financial broker and a military police agent deployed to the Italian Secret Service were arrested and charged with corruption, and the priest also with slander, in an investigation that developed out of a broader three-year inquiry into the Vatican Bank. The case is the latest black mark on the bank, which under Pope Francis and Benedict XVI has been trying to shake its image as a secretive offshore haven and bring itself into compliance with European norms so that it could use the euro.

Rome prosecutors say the three men hired a private plane last July with the intention of bringing the cash into Italy from Locarno, Switzerland. The money was to be carried by the Secret Service agent, who would not be required to declare it at the border. But the scheme fell through, the prosecutors said, as the three began bickering and, eventually, lost their nerve. Cellphones used by the three in arranging the money transfer were later burned, prosecutors said.…

Even before his arrest on Friday, the prelate, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, was no stranger to the authorities. An employee of Deutsche Bank before entering the priesthood, and until recently an accountant in a top Vatican financial office that oversees the Catholic Church’s real estate holdings, Monsignor Scarano was under investigation by magistrates in Salerno on accusations that he had illegally moved $730,000 in cash from his account in the Vatican Bank to Italian banks, his lawyer said.

The Times article explains a little more about the scheme and those behind it. And then there’s this whopper:

[Scarano’s attorney Silverio] Sica said that Monsignor Scarano’s aims were purely altruistic. The money came from a donor, and he wanted to put the apartment up for sale and use the proceeds to finance a hospice for terminally ill patients in Salerno.

Yeah right. As though I buy that.

About the only positive note here, is that Vatican officials appear to have worked with Italian authorities in this particular investigation. That’s unusual. Like most tax-haven financial institutions, in the past the Vatican Bank usually resisted working with government investigators. I have no idea if this means they’ve truly changed their ways, or if they cooperated only in this one case.

I suggest any Catholic prelates involved in high finance crack open their Bibles for the first time since leaving seminary (assuming they read the Bible there … I’m not even sure about that). Have a look at verses like Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 12:33-34, Hebrews 13:5 or James 5:1-3 … among many other verses I could cite … and then tell me this kind of operation is even remotely appropriate for the organization that views itself as God’s Holy Church.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Matthew 6:19a.

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