Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:35am EDT
* Trio accused of trying to bring 20 million euros from Switzerland
* Vatican prelate was already subject of another investigation
* Arrests come after Pope set up commission to look into bank
* Private plane was to have collected cash; cell phones burned (Adds more quotes, Scarano’s background)
By Philip Pullella
ROME, June 28 (Reuters) – A senior Catholic cleric with connections to the Vatican bank was arrested on Friday for plotting to help rich friends smuggle tens of millions of euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland, in the latest blow to the Vatican’s image.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary in a tale that reads like a spy novel.
It involves police wiretaps, a private plane rented to collect the cash from Locarno, burned cell phones and an allegedly corrupt secret services agent who promised to get the money past customs.
Details of the case against Scarano will come as an acute embarrassment to Pope Francis, who, since his election in March, has pointedly eschewed many of the trappings of office and sought to stress the importance of a simple life of devotion.
Only two days ago, the Vatican announced he had set up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which has been hit by a number of scandals in the past decades.