Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Vatican pair removed in homosexual prostitution inquiry

The coffin of Pope John Paul is carried in 2005
Gentlemen of His Holiness carried the coffin of the late Pope John Paul

An aide to the Pope and a Vatican chorister have been removed from their posts over allegations of involvement in a homosexual prostitution ring.

The Vatican confirmed it had suspended Angelo Balducci, an usher known as a Gentleman to His Holiness, whose duties included greeting important visitors.

Police had been tapping his phone in connection with a corruption inquiry, when they heard about the sex ring.

The chorister, Ghinedu Thomas Ehiem, is said to have found men for Mr Balducci.

The Nigerian sang for 19 years in the Giulia Choir, which performs at St Peter's Basilica when the Pope is not present.

In addition to being a Gentleman to His Holiness, Mr Balducci is an engineer who is a board member of Italy's public works department.


The case has made front-page news in the Italian media.

Excerpts of wiretaps published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Thursday, showed Mr Ehiem had been in regular contact with Mr Balducci before the latter was arrested on corruption charges last month.

He asked and I executed. He would give me 50 or 100 euros, never more than 1,000 or 1,500 euros a year
Ghinedu Thomas Ehiem, quoted in Italian newspaper Panorama

The transcripts suggest that Mr Ehiem procured at least 10 contacts for Mr Balducci, including a male model and a rugby player.

A police document prepared for magistrates said Mr Ehiem and another man were part of "an organised network... to abet male prostitution".

Mr Balducci's lawyer, Franco Coppi, told the Reuters news agency he had no comment on the newest accusations against his client.

"We have much more serious things to be concerned with right now," he said, referring to the corruption charges.

Mr Ehiem told the Italian newspaper Panorama that he would find men on the Pianeta Escort (Planet Escort) website and set up encounters between them and Mr Balducci at his apartment in Rome.

"He asked and I executed. He would give me 50 or 100 euros, never more than 1,000 or 1,500 euros a year," Mr Ehiem added.

A spokesman for the Vatican told the BBC that Pope Benedict XVI was aware of the matter.

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