A high-ranking official at the troubled Vatican bank (who was already under investigation for a possible money laundering scheme) was arrested on Friday for trying to bring 20 million euros in to the country illegally. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was detained along with two others for the failed plot that involved bringing the cash from Switzerland to Italy on an Italian government plane, presumably so they could avoid customs checks, and therefore, taxes.
Scarano's lawyer denies all the charges and says his client "can explain," though he did not elaborate on how. The new charges follow a separate investigation of Scarano that stemmed from a series of shady transactions he made back in 2009, transferring money between his personal accounts in The Vatican and in Italy.
On a personal scale, Scarano's crimes are not that disastrous, but they come at a very difficult time for the Church and the new pope. Just two days ago, Pope Francis created an inquiry commission to investigate corruption and mismanagement at the Vatican bank. The bank, which operates under different laws than the rest of the European Union, has been accused of failing to meet the more rigorous standards of the world financial community and an excess of secrecy. Scarano's alleged crimes appear to be exactly the kind of behavior the Pope is trying to put a stop to.
This also comes on top of all the other scandals and accusations of corruption that have been dogging the Church in recent years. Pope Francis has been on the job just a few short months, but he's already got his hands full trying to "clean up" the ancient institution. Another black eye for the Vatican is last thing he needs.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.