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Vatican arrests former diplomat on child pornography charges

Italian police and carabinieri officers patrol in St Peter's Square at the Vatican (Photo: AP)

Vatican police have arrested Mgr Carlo Alberto Capella, a former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, on charges related to the possession and distribution of child pornography.

The Vatican said that Mgr Capella was taken into custody that morning by the Vatican gendarmes at the request of Vatican City State’s promoter of justice, who serves as chief prosecutor and directs criminal investigations.

“The accused is being detained in a cell in the barracks of the gendarmerie corps,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The arrest, the statement said, was made on the charges related to “Article 10, paragraphs 3 and 5, of Law VIII of 2013.”

Paragraph 3 deals with a criminal who “distributes, disseminates, transmits, imports, exports, offers or sells child pornography through any means, even electronically, as well as whoever possess child pornography for those purposes or otherwise distributes or disseminates knowledge of information directed at grooming or exploiting minors for sexual purposes.”

The violation carries a prison sentence of one year to five years and a fine from €2,500 (about $3,000, £2,200) to €50,000 ($61,400, £44,000). However, the paragraph 5 referred to in the Vatican statement says that “the penalty is increased if a considerable quantity of pornographic material is involved.”

The Italian monsignor was recalled to the Vatican from Washington after the US State Department notified the Holy See in August of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

“The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City,” and opened the investigation, the Vatican press office had said in September.

Then, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Mgr Capella on September 28 on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

“Investigators believe that the offences occurred while the suspect was visiting a place of worship in Windsor,” the police statement said. A spokesman for the Diocese of London, Ontario, which includes Windsor, confirmed at the time “that it was asked to, and did, assist in an investigation around suspicions involving Mgr Capella’s possible violations of child pornography laws by using a computer address at a local church.”

Mgr Capella, 50, was born in Carpi, Italy, and ordained to the priesthood in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Milan. After studying at the Vatican diplomatic academy in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 2004. He had worked since the summer of 2016 at the Vatican nunciature in Washington.