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CROATIA: Fugitive ‘playboy’ priest arrested

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Franciscan priest Sime Nimac was arrested after allegedly running off with almost one million euros ($1.3 million) and a married woman after illegally selling church propertyA fugitive Croatian priest who allegedly ran off with almost one million euros ($1.3 million) and a married woman after illegally selling church property has been arrested, police said on Thursday.

Franciscan priest Sime Nimac was arrested on Wednesday in Zagreb after the Church authorities pressed charges against him and he was transferred to the central coastal town of Split to face a criminal probe, a police spokeswoman told AFP.

Local media reported that police had tracked down the 34-year-old Catholic clergyman, whom they describe as a handsome aficionado of expensive clothes and luxury goods, to a Zagreb apartment through his cellphone signal.

He was found there with a young married woman who worked at the bank from which he withdrew the money, media reports said.

Nimac, the former parish priest of Baska Voda on the southern Adriatic coast, signed a deal in April with a local firm to sell a plot of church land.

But the next month he withdrew almost one million euros in cash from the parish's account “without a valid explanation why the money was taken and what it will be used for,” the Split archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday.

The property had been sold without the written approval of the Church authorities and the Franciscans have filed a suit to annul the deal.

The archdiose described Nimac an “insatiable individual” and apologised to the public which was “justly outraged” by his behaviour.

According to media reports, Nimac had recently demanded to be defrocked.

The Catholic Church plays an important role in Croatian society and nearly 90 percent of the country's 4.2 million inhabitants are Roman Catholics. - AFP