Monsignor arrested in 30 mln euro fraud probe

 BOLZANO -- Money that seemed bound for a humanitarian organisation, given by thousands of people, who were for the most part elderly and resident abroad, to a trustworthy priest, only for it reportedly to end in his pocket.  A scam to the value of 30 million euros, with all the semblance of a real criminal gang, allegedly run by Monsignor Patrizio Benvenuti, according to the Bolzano prosecution office.

 The Italian finance authorities have arrested the 64-year-old senior prelate of Argentinian origin and have seized a luxurious fifteenth century villa in Piombino and a large archaeological site at Selinunte, as well as multiple priceless works of art.  An international arrest warrant has allegedly also been issued for the shrewd 54-year-old French businessman Christian Ventisette, who worked closely with the priest.

 Their signatures were also found on a flat, costing 530,000 euros, in Poggio Catino, along with several others in Poppi to the sum of 670,000.

 Benvenuti, who the Preliminary Investigation Officers have place under house arrest, was reportedly captured in Genoa as he was attempting to leave for the Canary Islands, where he resides.  According to the inquiry officers the association included nine other people besides Benvenuti and Ventisette.

 The Bolzano Prosecution Office reports that the Monsignor and the businessman were the “promoters and organisers of this criminal conspiracy, active both within the country and abroad, finishing in various purchases and repeated acts of fraud, money-laundering and tax-evasion.  They involved many people and societies located in France, Belgium, Swizerland, Luxemburg, the United States, and Italy”.  They also ran much of their operation through a website, called “Fondazione Kepha Onlus”.

 The investigation was launched after a nun, who used to work with the prelate, raised the alarm.  The religious woman had in fact received bank statements to her home in Alto Adige referencing a trust and a capitol society, named Opus, which showed the movement of hundreds-of-thousands of euros for which she could not find an explanation.

 The sister explained to the police that when she had worked for the Monsignor in Rome, she had been driven by faith to stop several fundamental contracts and move to Alto Adige to be Opus’ legal representative.