Corruption scandal spreads to Vatican

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The Independent Online

A prominent Catholic cardinal and a former minister have been put under investigation as a corruption scandal that has tainted the Italian government spread to touch the Vatican.

Magistrates told Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe and Pietro Lunardi, a former infrastructure and transport minister, that they were being investigated for aggravated corruption, judicial sources said.

Magistrates in Perugia are investigating corruption and favours involving public works contracts, mostly in construction. Cardinal Sepe, 67, is being investigated for alleged corruption when he was a Vatican official running the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a department of the Vatican that finances the work of missions abroad. Cardinal Sepe, who ran the department until he was moved to Naples in 2006, is suspected of aggravated corruption with Mr Lunardi in connection with a real estate deal.

According to Italian newspapers La Stampa, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, Mr Lunardi bought a building in Rome from Cardinal Sepe's department in 2004 at a price well below market value.

The next year, when Mr Lunardi was minister, he approved a decree allocating funds for the restoration of historic church buildings.

The Vatican said it hoped the situation "could be cleared up fully and rapidly in order to eliminate any shadows, be they on the person or Church institutions".