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Vatican     HOLY SEE OFFICIAL IN 'FAKE ART SALES'
A senior Vatican official is under investigation for allegedly selling works of art with fake Vatican-stamped certificates representing them as masterpieces by artists such as Michelangelo.
    Francesco Polino, the Rome Deputy Prosecutor, said he had questioned a number of Vatican officials, including Monsignor Michele Basso, who heads the Holy See's Social Security Department.
    "People inside the Vatican have been promoting the sale of paintings, sculptures and archaeological treasures and passing them off as extraordinary masterpieces with false certificates of provenance on headed Holy See notepaper," Signor Polino told Il Messaggero, the Rome daily.
    He said the inquiry was centred on Monsignor Basso, whose collection of works of art had been seized by police from his flat in the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square.
    Monsignor Basso, a former head of the Vatican Archive, admitted that he had been dealing in works of art and archaeological finds from inside the Vatican, but insisted that he was entitled to do so "because the collection is my own property". He said he had "done nothing wrong" and had tried to sell part of his collection to raise money for a hospital in Albania run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
   
Times
   
14/8/00



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