Arrested prelate tells magistrates of secret accounts in Vatican

Updated 22 September 2013
0

Arrested prelate tells magistrates of secret accounts in Vatican

ROME: The Vatican department in charge of paying salaries and managing real estate acted improperly as a parallel bank, providing accounts to outsiders, an arrested prelate who worked there for 22 years has told Italian prosecutors.
The latest allegations of misdoings come as Pope Francis struggles to tackle years of financial scandals involving the Vatican bank, which has long been in the spotlight for failing to meet international standards against tax evasion and the disguising of illegal sources of income.
The allegations concerning the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, known as APSA, will present another headache for the pope, who has appointed two commissions to advise him on how to clean up Vatican finances.
A key suspect in a widening investigation by Italian magistrates looking into alleged money laundering through the Vatican bank told them that officials at APSA allowed the office to be used by outsiders even though it was against its regulations, according to a transcript of his questioning.
The prelate, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, is under investigation by magistrates in his home city of Salerno, where he is suspected of using his close ties with the Vatican bank to launder money. He is under arrest in a hospital in Salerno.
Scarano’s lawyers say he did not launder money.
Scarano was arrested in Rome on June 28 along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial broker in a separate investigation concerning an alleged plot to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland.
Under questioning by Rome magistrates in July, Scarano said some officials at APSA, whose purpose is to pay Vatican salaries, fund its departments and manage its real estate, allowed the department to be used improperly by outsiders.
“As APSA, we were not allowed to have outside clients, but, despite this, in reality, we acted as a bank,” Scarano told the magistrates, according to the transcript of the questioning obtained by Reuters.
“We took in money, used it, and paid out interest to depositors,” he said.
The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said he had no comment on Scarano’s questioning.

Bank account
During the questioning by magistrates, Scarano named one Italian banker who had an account at APSA. That account was closed when the banker was caught up in an Italian investigation into market-rigging, Scarano added. Another account holder at APSA was a long-time Vatican benefactor, the prelate said.
Scarano also told prosecutors that he informed a superior of his concerns with the so-called “lay accounts.” After this meeting, Scarano said some of the accounts were closed, but then he was promoted to another APSA office where he subsequently had limited access to first-hand information.
In addition to managing real estate and paying salaries, APSA acts as the purchasing office and human resources department for the Vatican, according to the department’s statute. Among its lesser-known roles are financial portfolio management and stock management for the Vatican.
Vatican sources say the pope wants the Holy See to cooperate with Italian investigators on the Scarano case. Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back from Brazil in July, Francis used an Argentine expression that means “he’s no saint.”
Through his position at APSA, Scarano had ready access to the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), where he had several accounts.
The IOR is currently under pressure from the international financial community to ensure more transparency and comply with international standards against money-laundering.
Since his arrest, Scarano has written three letters to Pope Francis and has asked to meet the pontiff to tell him of what he says were irregular activities in financial administration.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
0

Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.