Head of Vatican Bank Resigns Amid Growing Scandal

Pope Francis at St. Peter's in June 2013, as a Vatican banking scandal was widening.

By NICOLE WINFIELD

ROME (AP) - The director of the embattled Vatican bank and his deputy resigned Monday following the latest developments in a broadening finance scandal that has already landed one Vatican monsignor in prison and added urgency to Pope Francis' reform efforts.

The Vatican said in a statement that Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, stepped down "in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See."

Cipriani, along with the bank's then-president, was placed under investigation by Rome prosecutors in 2010 for alleged violations of Italy's anti-money-laundering norms after financial police seized 23 million euro ($30 million) from a Vatican account at a Rome bank. Neither has been charged and the money was eventually ordered released.

But the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, has remained under the glare of prosecutors and now Francis amid fresh concerns it has been used as an offshore tax haven.

Last week, a Vatican accountant was arrested as part of Rome prosecutors' broadening investigation into the IOR. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is accused of corruption and slander in connection with a plot to smuggle 20 million euro ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland without reporting it to customs officials.

Scarano, dubbed "Don 500" by the Italian media because of his purported favorite euro banknote, acknowledged under questioning Monday that his behavior was wrong but that he was only trying to help out friends, attorney Silverio Sica told The Associated Press.

According to wiretapped phone conversations, Scarano was in touch regularly with both Cipriani and Tulli to get the required bank approval to move large amounts of cash into and out of his IOR accounts. Scarano had two such accounts: a personal one and one called "Fondo Anziani" to receive charitable donations for projects to help the elderly, prosecutors say.

In addition to his Rome arrest, Scarano is also under investigation in the southern city of Salerno for alleged money-laundering stemming from a 560,000 euro cash withdrawal he made from his IOR charity account in 2009. Sica, the attorney, has said Scarano arranged complicated transactions with dozens of other people and eventually used the money to pay off a mortgage.

The group of five cardinals overseeing the IOR accepted the resignations of Cipriani and Tulli and tapped the IOR's current president, German financier and aristocrat Ernst von Freyberg, to serve as interim director, aVatican statement said.

Von Freyberg, who was named IOR president in February following the clamorous ouster last year of Italian banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi for incompetence, thanked Cipriani and Tulli for their years of work and said much progress has been made in recent years to bring greater transparency to the Vatican's finances.

"While we are grateful for what has been achieved, it is clear today that we need new leadership to increase the pace of this transformation process," von Freyberg said in a statement.

Italian banker Rolando Marranci was named as acting deputy and another banking expert, Antonio Montaresi, has been brought into a new position as chief risk officer to help ensure the IOR complies with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism norms. Both belong to the Promontory Group, an expert in the field of anti-money laundering which has been retained by the IOR to help it comply with international norms.

The IOR's board has begun the process of finding a permanent director and deputy director, the statement said.

The Vatican bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage assets destined for religious or charitable works. Located in a tower just inside the gates of Vatican City, it isn't open to the public - only to Vaticanemployees, religious orders and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.

Last week, Francis announced a commission of inquiry into the bank's activities and legal status to ensure it is in "harmony" with the Catholic Church's mission. It's part of his overall reform effort of the Vaticanbureaucracy, mandated by the cardinals who elected him pope in March.

The reason for concern about the IOR is well-founded: The bank has long been the source of some of the greatest scandals of the Holy See, famously implicated in a scandal over the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s, in one of Italy's largest fraud cases.

Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in circumstances that still remain mysterious.

Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had made to several dummy companies in Latin America. The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans.

While denying any wrongdoing, the Vatican bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors.

The late Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, an American prelate who headed the Vatican bank at the time, was charged as an accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy in the scandal, but Italy's Constitutional Court eventually backed the Vatican in ruling that under Vatican-Italian treaties Marcinkus had immunity from Italian prosecution. Marcinkus long asserted his innocence and died in 2006.

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14 Comments

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tma2c

Why anyone belongs to any church is amazing

July 02 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bgjdavid

It doesn't take much of a scandal to get reported in Headline News when
it pertains to Catholics but when the head Rabbi of Israel is arrested for sexual crimes and then has to resign, the news isn't even mentioned let alone headline news. This should tell you how the media bows to the "politically correct."
www.topworldheadlines.com/2013/06/israels-chief-rabbi-metzger-arrested.html

July 02 2013 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Woof2205

Criminals!

July 02 2013 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jcp107

Corruption continues to go on in the Catholic Church. Kinda makes me proud to be a member. :(

July 02 2013 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
breid2

so...the boat that carries the ***** of Babylon is not seaworthy ?

July 02 2013 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ljnace

First the Pope resigns then the head of banking resigns. No surprise !!!!

July 02 2013 at 7:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Randy

The vatican has so much money that they could feed the world if they wanted to.

July 02 2013 at 7:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dumjerk52

The corruption of that so-called "Bank" has long been exposed--why it still exists boggles the mind--oh,wait,too many rotten people are profiting from the mess,what am I thinking?And the best of luck to the new Pope when he starts digging into that pile of you-know-what--after all,I still have my suspicions about what happened to the last guy who asked "too many questions"....

July 01 2013 at 11:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
uc1912

I think Obama had some ties to this.

July 01 2013 at 10:56 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Sam Cicero Jim Yost

A pack of money grubbing robed freaks

July 01 2013 at 10:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply