Vatican chorister and usher in gay prostitution scandal
One of Pope Benedict's ceremonial ushers and a member of an elite choir in St Peter's Basilica have been implicated in a gay prostitution ring, in the latest sexual scandal to taint the Vatican.
Ghinedu Ehiem, a Nigerian, was dismissed by the Vatican from a prestigious choir after his name appeared in transcripts of police wiretaps.
In the wiretaps, Mr Eheim is allegedly heard negotiating over the procurement of male prostitutes.
The wiretaps were carried out in connection with a probe into corruption in contracts to build public works, including the planned venue in Sardinia of last year's G8 summit.
Among four people arrested last month in the corruption probe was Angelo Balducci, an engineer who is a board member of Italy's public works department and a construction consultant to the Vatican.
Balducci is also a member of an elite group called "Gentlemen of His Holiness" – ushers who are called to serve in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on major occasions such as when the pope receives heads of state or presides at big events.
Balducci was arrested on corruption charges and the allegations of prostitution emerged only later.
Excerpts of the wiretaps and police documents published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica showed that Ehiem, 40, had been in regular contact with Balducci before Balducci's arrest last month and the subject of their conversation was gay sex.
A police document prepared for magistrates and published in part by La Repubblica said Balducci was in contact with Ehiem and an Italian who were part of what the police called "an organised network ... to abet male prostitution".
It was not immediately possible to contact Ehiem's lawyer.
A Vatican source said Balducci, who is still in jail, has been dismissed from the elite group of ushers and that his name would not appear in the next edition of the Vatican's directory.
"He obviously can't come back here after being accused of these things," the source told Reuters.
The latest black eye for the Vatican comes on the heels of major paedophilia scandals involving the abuse of children by priests in Ireland, Germany and the United States.
Balducci's lawyer, Franco Coppi, one of Italy's highest profile lawyers, said he had no comment on the newest accusations against his client, saying: "We have much more serious things to be concerned with right now," referring to the corruption charges.