A nun from Rome is under probe for being accused of bribing local officials to acquire a planning permission for her religious order to build a hotel on protected land.
Judicial sources in Italy said Polish sister Katarzyna Dorotha Kociach, 41, from the order of Poor Scholastic Sisters of Our Lady in Rome allegedly paid $33,500 to local officials to get the green light to build the hotel they wanted near the Vatican. She is the former legal representative of the convent.
Indeed, the nun got what she wanted. Permission was given despite the land being located in a protected green area. Construction of the hotel started on the Via Aurelia in 2014.
Authorities became suspicious when they discovered receipts issued on behalf of a council employee.
The Poor Sisters hotel plan was “an ambitious project, but impossible to carry out because of the stringent planning ban”. Apparently, the nuns solved the problem by paying their way of $33,500 to Giancarlo Bei,a senior manager in the Rome city council urban planning department, who has since been charged with corruption.
Police searched Bei’s house and found copies of receipts issued by Nitoc to the nun, which investigators say is evidence Sister Kociach was aware all along that the money she paid would end up in the own pockets of the council official.
A former partner of Bei, Mihaela Nitoc, is also under investigation. The bribe money was allegedly made through her business, which specializes in dealing with Italian bureaucracy. Hundreds of similar firms like the one ran by Nitoc do business in Rome, offering to help citizens deal with traffic fines, disputed utility bills or to obtain official permits.
Property prices have almost skyrocketed around the Via Aurelia in recent years due to its proximity to the Vatican and Rome’s main Leonardo da Vinci airport. The location has become a favorite for pilgrims and tourists.
Bei is also being investigated in another case for allegedly approving a new building complex in return for a favor of allowing his wife to buy a flat at a discounted price.