Top Vatican bank managers resign after Monsignor’s arrest

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Two top managers of the scandal-plagued Vatican bank resigned yesterday following the arrest of a high-ranking cleric with close ties to the financial institution, in the latest of a string of embarrassments for the Holy See.

Director Paolo Cipriani and deputy-director Massimo Tulli stepped down three days after the Vatican was rocked by the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who is accused of plotting with two other people to smuggle 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland.

Ernst von Freyberg, a German who earlier this year became president of the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), will assume the role of bank director until a permanent replacement is appointed.

The bank has also established a new position of chief risk officer who will be charged with improving compliance with financial regulations at a bank which has long been a byword for secrecy and lack of transparency.

The Vatican bank, which has had more than its share of scandals in the past few decades.

Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary.

According to transcripts from a judge’s report, Scarano, who is under two separate investigations by Italian magistrates in Rome and Milan, mentioned the director in phone conversations tapped by police investigators.

The judge’s report, obtained by Reuters, says Scarano controlled vast amounts of money and felt he could act with impunity because of his connections to the Vatican bank.

Only last Wednesday, two days before the arrests, Pope Francis set up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, which has been hit by a number of scandals in the past decades.

Scarano was for years a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as APSA, whose official title is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
Magistrates have said there is no indication so far that the Vatican bank was directly involved in the attempt to bring the money into Italy, but that the investigation was continuing and more searches were under way.

Scarano was suspended from his duties several weeks ago when he was placed under investigation by magistrates in Salerno.

In that investigation, his lawyer Silverio Sica said wealthy friends had donated money to Scarano in order for him to build a home for the terminally ill.

According to Sica, his client wanted to use that money to pay off his mortgage so he could sell a property in Salerno and use the proceeds to build the care home.

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