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2 Vatican bank officials resign amid scandal

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is accused of smuggling $26 million into Italy from Switzerland.

Francesco Pecoraro/AP

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is accused of smuggling $26 million into Italy from Switzerland.

ROME — The director of the embattled Vatican bank and his deputy resigned Monday, the latest heads to roll in a broadening finance scandal that has landed one Vatican monsignor in prison and added urgency to Pope Francis’s reform efforts.

The Vatican said Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, stepped down ‘‘in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See.’’ The speed with which they resigned, however, indicated the decision was not entirely theirs.

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Cipriani, along with the bank’s then-president, was placed under investigation by Rome prosecutors in 2010 for alleged violations of Italy’s antimoney laundering rules after financial police seized $30 million from a Vatican account at a Rome bank. Neither has been charged and the money was eventually ordered released.

But the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, has remained in the news amid fresh concerns it has been used as an offshore tax haven.

The bank has long been a source of scandal for the Holy See. Last year, its board ousted then-president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi for incompetence.

The resignations Monday and nominations of interim administrators represented a final overthrow of the bank’s old guard management and coincided with its efforts to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering and terror financing.

The resignations came days after the pope announced a commission of inquiry and followed the arrest of a Vatican accountant. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano is accused of corruption and slander in connection with a plot to smuggle $26 million into Italy from Switzerland without reporting it to customs officials.

Scarano, dubbed ‘‘Don 500’’ by the Italian media because of his purported favorite euro banknote, acknowledged Monday that his behavior was wrong but said he was only trying to help friends, his attorney, Silverio Sica, told the Associated Press.

Scarano is also under investigation in Salerno for alleged money-laundering.

The five cardinals who oversee the bank accepted the resignations of Cipriani and Tulli and tapped the current president, German financier Ernst von Freyberg, as interim director. Italian banker Rolando Marranci was named as acting deputy and another banking specialist, Antonio Montaresi, was brought into a new position as chief risk officer.

The Vatican bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage assets destined for religious or charitable works.

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