Croatia Tries 'Playboy Priest' for Embezzlement


A Croatian priest dubbed the "playboy minister" for his luxurious lifestyle went on trial on Thursday charged with embezzling some 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million) through the illegal sale of church property.

Franciscan priest Sime Nimac was charged before a local court in the coastal town of Split together with a former bank employee believed to be his lover who allegedly helped him with the scheme, a court official said.

Nimac is accused of selling a plot of land in 2012 without church authorities' approval.

He then allegedly withdrew the money paid for the property from the parish bank account and transferred it to his own, according to the indictment.

Both Nimac and his alleged accomplice, Jasna Bilonic, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial.

At the time Nimac, 35, described by local media as an aficionado of elegant clothes and luxury goods, was a parish priest in Baska Voda, on the southern Adriatic coast.

Nimac and Bilonic, who worked at the bank that held his account, used part of the money to buy "valuable property," a yacht and a luxurious car, the indictment said.

If found guilty, the two could face up to 10 years imprisonment.

When the scandal broke in 2012, the local archdiocese described Nimac an "insatiable individual" and apologized to the public "justly outraged" by his behavior.

The Catholic Church is highly influential in Croatia where 90 percent of the 4.2-million strong population are Roman Catholics.

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