TWO smartly dressed men armed with forged bond certificates worth trillions of euro have been caught while trying to talk their way into the Vatican's bank in what police say was a spectacularly bungled fraud scheme.
The middle-aged men, an American and a Dutch citizen of Malaysian origin, arrived at the main gate of the Vatican on the morning of March 11, telling Swiss guards they had an appointment at the bank, which has been dogged by scandals over the years.
When bank staff said they had no record of an appointment, the two men said "cardinals were expecting" them – arousing the suspicions of Vatican police, who called in colleagues from Italy's tax police.
Financial Guard police Lt Col Davide Cardia said that the suspects were detained by Vatican authorities after rapid checks by Vatican officials showed they had no such appointment nor connections with the Institute for Religious Works, the formal name of the bank, which is behind the tiny city state's walls and is not open to the public.
"When we arrived, the Vatican police had opened the men's briefcase to find bond certificates valued in US and Hong Kong dollars, as well as euros, worth €3 trillion," said Lt Col Cardia.
"The sum is impressive, even though it's only symbolic because we're talking about false certificates."
The two men, Lt Col Cardia, said, appeared to be planning to use the certificates to fraudulently open a line of credit at the bank.
The Vatican asked Italian authorities to help in the investigation. Italian police searched the men's room at a hotel near the Vatican and seized stamps and seals used to create the false documents.
Both suspects, whose names were not released by police, had been previously investigated for attempted fraud in Asian countries, Mr Cardia said without elaborating. They were issued citations and released on their own recognisance pending further investigation, since Italian law does not require arrest for investigation of attempted fraud, according to the official. Both are believed to have left Italy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)