Italian police arrested an Argentinian priest sought for allegedly defrauding more than 300 people, mostly elderly, for at least $30 million.
Patrizio Benvenuti, 64, was arrested Wednesday in the northern city of Bolzano as he was boarding a plane to the Canary Islands, where he lives.
The prelate collected money from his victims, saying it would go to a humanitarian foundation, Kepha – but which he channeled into companies and foreign bank accounts through elaborate money-laundering mechanisms, according to investigators.
The operation was carried out by the Guardia di Finanza, an Italian law enforcement agency under the authority of the Minister of Economy.
The officers seized, among other properties, a luxury 15th Centruy villa in the Tuscany region, EFE is reporting.
The Guardia di Finanza also has issued an international arrest warrant for French businessman Christian Veintisiete, 54, who is considered a close associate of the priest.
According to published reports, Benvenuti has worked in the ecclesiastical court of the Holy See and has also served as chaplain in the School of Telecommunications of the Armed Forces in Genoa.
The British newspaper, The Guardian, said the suspected fraud was exposed by a nun who previously worked with Benvenuti.