Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Buenos Aires, Argentina - Four Roman Catholic nuns in Argentina are being investigated by church officials on suspicion of helping a former government official hide up to $9 million in cash and jewels in their convent.

Jose Lopez, who was in the Cabinet of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, was arrested in June outside the monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. A neighbor reportedly saw Mr. Lopez throwing plastic bags of money over a monastery wall at 3 a.m. and called the police.

Security footage released by Argentinian media reportedly shows Mr. Lopez carrying a rifle and bags of money into the convent, located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, with the assistance of two of the sisters. Police reportedly found wads of cash in three different currencies stashed in the convent kitchen and in the trunk of a car.

Archbishop Augustine Radrizzani of Mercedes Lujan in Argentina announced the launch of a complete canonical investigation of the events at the monastery.

The Rev. Tom O’Donnell, who will lead the investigation, told a local radio station  that the investigation would “determine if there was a canonical crime and help the actions of the civil justice.”

The pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan, the Rev. Daniel P. Blanchoud, will serve as a notary in the investigation. Archbishop Radrizzani said he launched the investigation after seeking the approval of several other Argentine bishops.

Archbishop Santiago Olivera, the bishop of Cruz del Eje and president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, told an Argentinian Catholic news agency that the local church received the news of the sisters “with pain, with surprise and concern.” He said he hoped the sisters would eventually apologize either for their inadvertent assistance in a crime, or for knowingly assisting in a crime.

One of the nuns accused of assisting Mr. Lopez is set to appear before a judge next month. A total of four nuns have been accused of helping Mr. Lopez.

Since Ms. Fernandez’s presidential term ended in December, President Mauricio Macri’s administration has launched several investigations of former government officials accused of money laundering.

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