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Fake cardinals get busted by fake priests

A group of real cardinals and bishops at the Vatican - Credit: Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

The week’s weirdest news from around Europe…

Rome police dressed up as priests to bust a ring of con men disguised as cardinals.

Five suspects aged between 58 and 75 have been arrested for a total of 20 offences committed since 1988, involving a total of around 1.7 million euros (£1.45m).

Police said the fraudsters bought religious robes from shops that serve the city’s real clergy and presented themselves as cardinals who could arrange loans from the Vatican bank and a fictional Luxembourg fund called Eurozone in exchange for small deposits, which then disappeared. 

They hired places around the Vatican for meetings and even set up a fake notary’s office in a building on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

When arrested at Rome’s Basilica of Holy Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in the Piazza Esedra, one of the men claimed to have diplomatic immunity from his work with the Pope.

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A woman who fell from a window of a hilltop fortress in Scuffhausen, on the upper Rhine in Switzerland, has admitted leaning out to take a selfie.

The drop was around 10 metres (32 feet), but she avoided serious injury by catching a branch of a tree as she fell.

Fortress guard Karola Lüthi said: “The woman was very lucky that she clung to the tree.”

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A 65-year-old man from Graz, Austria, sat down to perform his morning ablutions and was bitten on the penis by an albino python hiding in his toilet.

Police said the pensioner was taken to hospital while bleeding from his genitals, while his 24-year-old neighbour in their block of flats is facing charges of failing to control a pet. The younger man had not noticed that one of his 11 snakes was missing.

Snake expert Wernger Stangl, who was called in to deal with the reptile, said the reptile was “not poisonous” and “its teeth were not large”. He said that a journey around the apartment block’s drainage system had probably left the snake “stressed, and it could bite for that reason.”

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A trainee nurse in Norway who retook a clinical medicine exam and reused 194 words from her previous paper in a 5,000-word essay has been banned from her course for a year for self-plagiarism.

Karina Roksvåg Skjold said she thought the decision was “very unfair” but she would not appeal in order to make others aware of stringent rules.

A spokesperson for the University of Agder, where Karina was studying, said she had also been disciplined for incorrectly crediting her coursebook as the source of two quotations, rather than the journals which originally published the papers reprinted in the coursebook.

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A Krakow man is facing two years in prison after drink-driving to what he thought was his girlfriend’s house.

Instead, the man pulled into the car park of the police station in Władysława Łokietka just before midnight, braking sharply and telling officers who came outside to investigate that he must have taken a wrong turning.

During the conversation, police said they noted a strong smell of alcohol and found the driver was three times over the limit.

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Transport authorities in Berlin, Munich and Vienna are dropping the word “Schwarzfahren” – which translates to ‘riding black’ – to describe fare-dodging after debates over whether it has racist connotations.

Wiener Linien, which runs trains and buses in the Austrian capital, said it was phasing out the term to avoid “misunderstandings”. 

The news comes as Germany’s national airline Lufthansa announced it would stop calling passengers “ladies and gentlemen” in announcements. A spokesperson said: “The crews have been instructed to use a welcome that instead includes all passengers.”

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The owner of a small currency exchange shop in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, has been cleared of money-laundering despite depositing and withdrawing 89 billion kronar (£2.98 billion) from a Prague bank in just 15 years.

The man would arrive with briefcases full of euros and then take money out of his account in dollars. Police suspected he might be linked to Russian gangs.

His wife said:  “He’s already given a lot of explanations to the police. The state requires us to document the people who come to us to exchange money, so this seems completely crazy to me.”

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A family who tried to lower their jetski bike into water off Povlja on the Croatian island of Brač saw their BMW slip down the gangway and underwater too.

No-one was injured in the incident, which saw the boat trailer that the jetski had been parked on slide down into the water, dragging the luxury car in behind it.

One onlooker said: “If the ramps were better maintained and not covered with so much algae that is as slippery as ice, there would be no such situations.”