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Vatican monsignor held over money laundering

VATICAN CITY--A Vatican monsignor already on trial for allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros (US$26 million) from Switzerland to Italy was arrested Tuesday in a separate case for allegedly using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money.

Financial police in the southern Italian city of Salerno said Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, dubbed “Monsignor 500” for his purported favored banknotes, had transferred millions of euros in fictitious donations from offshore companies through his accounts at the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works.

Police said they seized 6.5 million euros in real estate and bank accounts Tuesday, including Scarano's luxurious Salerno apartment, filled with gilt-framed oil paintings, ceramic vases and other fancy antiques.

A local priest was also placed under house arrest and a notary public was suspended for alleged involvement in the money-laundering plot. Police said in all, 52 people were under investigation.

Scarano's lawyer, Silverio Sica, said his client merely took donations from people he thought were acting in good faith to fund a home for the terminally ill. He conceded, however, that Scarano used the money to pay off a mortgage.

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