Italian police probe more Vatican bank transfers

ROME (AFP) - Italian police have found 13 suspicious money transfers through the Vatican bank, a newspaper said Tuesday, reporting that a senior cleric arrested last week allegedly offered his own accounts to transfer money for his friends.

The Corriere della Sera daily said that the suspect operations which have triggered money laundering controls totalled more than 1.0 million euros (S$1.7 million) and were similar to a larger 23-million-euro transfer that led to an investigation that is shaking up the bank.

It also quoted from documents in the investigation against Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the senior Vatican accountant held as part of a sweeping probe of the scandal-plagued Vatican bank.

Scarano is suspected of allowing his friends to use his own accounts at the bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR).

"He is a real screen in front of the actual economic beneficiary of the operation and he interrupts the traceability of the money," it said.

He apparently had access to various IOR accounts in Italy and abroad, as well as to deposits of the agency that manages the Vatican's assets (APSA) where he worked, the report said, citing police.

Scarano has been arrested on suspicion of trying to transfer 20 million euros on behalf of the D'Amico brothers, who own a fleet of oil tankers.

His lawyers say Scarano has rejected the charges.

The paper said that inquiry will likely wrap up within days and prosecutors are expected to apply for charges against the bank's then director general Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli, who both resigned earlier this week.

What has been hailed as a potential revolution by many religious watchers began with the appointment last month of cleric Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca to oversee the IOR's management - effectively placing one of Francis's trusted allies in a key position to report to him.

Last week, the 76-year-old pontiff followed this by installing a special five-member commission tasked with investigating the bank and reporting their findings directly back to him personally.

The commission's first report is expected in October, and may spark wider reforms of the bank.