A court in Rome acquitted a former Vatican accountant Monday of corruption charges and plotting to smuggle millions of untaxed euros into Italy from Switzerland. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was also facing a separate trial for money laundering in the southern Italian town of Salerno, charges he denied.
Prosecutors alleged that Scarano conspired to smuggle 20 million euros (about $22 million), using a private plane, from Switzerland in a tax-evasion scheme on behalf of a rich family of ship owners from Naples, Agence France-Presse reported. The Rome court acquitted Scarano of corruption and attempted money-smuggling charges but found him guilty of making false accusations against one of his co-defendants, for which the ex-accountant was handed down a two-year suspended sentence, according to AFP. Scarano, who has been nicknamed "Mr. 500" for his reported tendency to carry 500 euro bills on his person, denied any wrongdoing.
According to prosecutors, a former intelligence agent and a financial broker were also part of Scarano’s money-smuggling plot. They added that the agent, who allegedly rented the private plane, was unable to execute the plan. During the trial, the cases involving the agent and the broker were separated from Scarano's case, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Scarano worked for Apsa, an organization that looks after the Vatican's real estate holdings and stock portfolios, until his arrest in 2013. After his arrest, the Vatican froze the monsignor’s assets, worth 2.2 million euros (over $2.3 million).
The monsignor was put under house arrest but later released on his own recognizance, AP reported. At the time, Italy's financial police said Scarano was suspected of transferring millions of euros in fake charity donations from offshore companies through the Vatican’s bank accounts. Scarano’s lawyer, Silverio Sica said the monsignor took donations from people he thought wanted to fund a home for the terminally sick. But the lawyer reportedly agreed later that Scarano used the money to pay off a mortgage.