The Vatican Bank

Facts Follow Fiction: Money Laundering and Tax Evasion

Pope Francis I is following through on his promise of reform within the Vatican. A web of intrigue involving private planes, burn cell phones, powerful families, money laundering, and tax evasion is as thrilling as fiction.

A Rome-based journalist for the Financial Times asked me: “What’s next?” Which other banks will be dragged into this scandal? I can think of several European banks . You may recall a Spanish bank whose head had a landing strip for private planes. A plane loaded with drugs crash landed on the airstrip of his private villa, an incident that reportedly is unrelated to the bank’s money laundering activities for drug cartels.

Archangels: Rise of the Jesuits

In November, I published a fiction thriller, Archangels: Rise of the Jesuits, a tale of intrigue in which Jesuits blackmail the pope with secret documents. The Jesuits seize power to clean up corruption and financial scandals in the Vatican. I published it before Pope Benedict XVI resigned and before the first Jesuit pope in the history of the Catholic Church was elected. Both my book and Dan Brown’s book offended some Catholics.

How do I know Catholics are riled up about Dan Brown’s book? Commenters on my book on Amazon got into a debate about the DaVinci Code. Here’s an example of what one had to say when another commenter defended Dan Brown:

Maybe you need to talk to your priest about “forbidden books”. Sin is sin, and the church teaches that the writings of the likes of DB are NOT just entertainment, but quite lethal to the souls of many.

“Lethal to the souls of many?” Well, not just because one person thinks so. Another commenter, Rich in NYC, stood up for himself:

It is a pure work of fiction and just that and I say again it was an enjoyable read and well written. I know very well when it’s time for me to speak to a priest and I assure you that this is not one of those times….

My own thriller contains some fact-based background that makes many Catholics uncomfortable. I’ve gotten my share of “lethal” email, but I’ve also received a lot of supportive comments from Catholics, including priests.

One Catholic has been moved to do something about the Vatican’s unpleasant facts. He’s Pope Francis I, the first Jesuit to rule in the Vatican, and he’s in the process of afflicting the comfortable. Life is imitating art.

Pope Francis is committed to reform and modesty. He set up a commission to investigate the Vatican Bank and admonished it to “trust reluctantly, verify deeply.” Then he shocked a crowd of cardinals when he snubbed a concert where he was to be the guest of honor. The cardinals sat in their finery on either side of an aisle. The aisle was covered with an oriental rug atop which sat a large empty white and gold chair. The pope’s messenger assured the cardinals he was in good health.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a senior accountant at the Vatican Bank, was arrested on Friday, June 28. He is allegedly one of the masterminds of a money-laundering scheme. The monsignor allegedly also controls vast wealth, numerous properties, and several accounts at the Vatican Bank.

Yesterday Vatican bank director Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli resigned. Both were allegedly part of Scarano’s money laundering scheme. At least that’s what wiretaps of their phone conversations revealed.

When Judge Barbara Callari approved the request for arrests, she wrote that Scarano saw the Vatican bank as “the only safe and rapid instrument for financial and banking operations that could evade–if not outright violate–laws against money laundering and tax evasion.”

Perhaps Monsignor Scarano, Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli can talk to a priest about it.