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Top Vatican bank managers resign amid cash-smuggling scandal

Domenico Stinellis, AP

A view of the building at left which hosts the Vatican bank, formerly known as the Institute for Religious Works, IOR, inside the Vatican.

ROME — The director and deputy director of the Vatican bank resigned on Monday, following the arrest of a senior cleric with close connections to the bank who is accused of plotting to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland.

A statement from the Vatican said Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli had handed in their resignations, three days after the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant in a Vatican department who is the subject of two separate investigations by Italian magistrates.

Ernst von Freyberg, the bank's president will take over as interim director general and a new position of chief risk officer will also be created to improve compliance with financial regulations.

In the latest of a series of blows to the Vatican's scandal-plagued bank, Scarano, 61, was arrested on Friday along with Giovanni Zito, a secret services agent, and financial broker Giovanni Carenzio.

The three are accused of plotting to bring 20 million euros in cash to Italy from Switzerland for Scarano's rich shipping industry friends in the southern city of Salerno, where Scarano is under a separate investigation on suspicion of money laundering.

News of the resignation of two of the top managers at the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), comes only days after Pope Francis set up a special commission of inquiry to get to grips with the bank's longstanding problems.

As part of the management changes announced on Monday, Rolando Marranci was named as acting deputy director general and Antonio Montaresi was named as acting chief risk officer. A selection process has begun to make permanent appointments.

The future of the IOR has been clouded by uncertainty since the arrival of Pope Francis, who has laid great emphasis on cleaning up the financial scandals which have tainted the bank for decades.

The IOR gained notoriety in 1982 when Roberto Calvi, an Italian banker with close connections to the Vatican bank, was found hanging from Blackfriar's Bridge, near the financial district in London. A court ruled he had been murdered but the crime has never been solved.