Monday, July 1, 2013


Code words couldn’t hide Italy money smuggling plot.

Monsignor Nunizio Scarano and two others have been arrested for plotting to smuggle $26 million in cash from Switzerland to Italy. 

Vatican bank: Monsignor Nunzio Scarano.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano.
ROME — To most people, a book is a book. But to Monsignor Nunizio Scarano, a Vatican official arrested on charges of money smuggling, a "book" was a code word for 1 million euros in cash, a report by the judge on the case said.

"Encyclopaedia," and "bookmarks" were among other code words that Scarano, who had close connections to the Vatican bank, used in phone conversations with secret service agent Giovanni Zito and broker Giovanni Carenzio, it said.

The three were arrested on Friday for allegedly attempting to smuggle $26 million in cash from Switzerland a year ago for Scarano's rich shipping industry friends in their home town of Salerno in southern Italy.

On Monday, the director and deputy director of the Vatican bank resigned on Monday, three days after the arrest of Scarano.

The contours of the plot are detailed in a 48-page judicial document that includes transcripts or summaries of wiretaps, emails, letters and checks passed on to investigators by police.

The document, in which Judge Barbara Callari approves magistrates' requests for the arrests, was obtained by Reuters.

"I think the more books you can bring the better it is," Scarano tells secret agent Zito, who was to have collected the cash from Carenzio in Switzerland and whisk it past customs controls when a private plane returned to Italy.

Scarano: "Can you bring 20-25 books?"

Zito: "Those for sure."

Scarano: "That is already a good goal, you understand, because it will allow us to do many things for ourselves."

All the conversations in the report came from official police transcripts of wiretaps. Scarano was interrogated by magistrates in Rome on Monday and one of his lawyers, Francesco Grimaldi, said he was cooperating with investigators, but declined to give any details of what he said.

The other two defendants had not yet been questioned by magistrates, Grimaldi said, and one of them, secret agent Zito, was in a military prison south of Rome. Neither of their lawyers could be reached.


The document says Scarano controlled vast amounts of money and felt he could act with impunity because of his connections to the Vatican bank.

Scarano found an equally confident partner in Zito, a Carabiniere policeman seconded to the domestic secret services.

He assures Scarano: "The customs people will clear us on the plane for me. They won't do anything to me. They'll see my (official) passport and they'll say 'good day, sir, goodbye, everything is in order'."

The money never left Switzerland because Carenzio, the broker, did not carry out his part of the deal — to withdraw the money from a bank — even though Zito had gone to Locarno in July, 2012, to pick it up.

Scarano, who worked until recently as a senior accountant in the Vatican's financial administration, and who magistrates say owned various properties and had accounts in the Vatican bank, was the pivotal part of the plot and commanded respect.

In one of the conversations heard by police, Zito tells the monsignor, with whom he is on first-name terms: "Nunzio, I am your humble servant ... maybe you have not understood. I don't know what else to do for you. I am your humble servant".

In a conversation between Zito and Carenzio the secret services agent tells the broker to remember to "turn off (your cell phone) and remove the battery before you cross the border (into Switzerland)" when he drives to the country to arrange to withdraw the money.

The cell phones were bought with false identity documents, code named "bookmarks," and the phones were burned afterwards.

The judge's report includes an e-mail Carenzio received from a Swiss bank asking him for "a sworn statement" to "release the bank from anti-money laundering norms".


That e-mail, which Carenzio forwarded to Scarano, referred to $54 million, the amount magistrates said the three defendants originally planned to move into Italy before settling on $26 million.

Even though the money never left Switzerland, Zito demanded his cut and Scarano begrudgingly complied.

The prelate gave Zito two checks, one for 400,000 euros and another for 200,000 euros from his account in an Italian bank near the Vatican. Zito cashed the first check but Scarano blocked the second before Zito could cash it by filing a false report that it had been lost.

In her report, Callari wrote that Scarano felt safe "thanks to his relations with the Vatican bank". She said the monsignor saw the IOR as "the only safe and rapid instrument for financial and banking operations that could evade - if not outright violate - laws against money laundering and tax evasion".

Magistrates have said there was no indication so far that the bank was directly involved in Scarano's attempt to smuggle the money into Italy for his rich friends.

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