Vatican to tackle money laundering
29 December 2010
, by Giulia Segreti in Rome (The Financial Times)http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fd156970-137d-11e0-a367-00144feabdc0.htmlExcerpt:
The Vatican will establish a new authority to combat money laundering as the tiny state seeks the blessing of international regulators who have refused to include it on lists of countries compliant with international norms
In a papal document to be published on Thursday, the Vatican will promise to adhere to European rules targeting money laundering. The decree, or motu proprio, will apply to all government bodies at the Holy See including the Vatican Bank
, also known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR)
The Vatican’s new Financial Information Authority will enforce rules “concerning the prevention of illegal financial activity” and join “the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing”, the Holy See said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cardinal Attilio Nicora, head of the body responsible for Church properties and funding, will oversee the new anti-money laundering regime.
The Vatican covets inclusion on lists – compiled by bodies including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
and the Financial Action Task Force
– of jurisdictions deemed to be compliant with international money laundering norms.
The announcement comes three months after court officials in Rome launched an investigation into the Vatican bank’s top two officials – Ettore Gotti-Tedeschi, chairman, and Paolo Cipriani, director-general – for suspected breach of anti-money laundering norms.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing. Mr Gotti-Tedeschi has said the case arose from a “misunderstanding” between the Vatican bank and Credito Artigiano, an Italian bank, over a money transfer.
Following concerns from Italy’s central bank over two transfers of Vatican funds to unnamed beneficiaries, magistrates seized a total of €23m ($30m) from an IOR account at Credito Artigiano.
In October, an Italian court ruled against an appeal by the Vatican, which had sought the release of the frozen funds.
“The motu proprio is a clear confirmation of what we have been saying until now – the Catholic Church wants to be included in the list of states dedicated to combating terrorism and money laundering and has no intention to get involved in any money laundering
,” Vincenzo Scordamaglia, a lawyer representing the IOR, told the Financial Times.
“Italy will not be able to say any more that the Holy See does not want to follow the rules. We have had so many obstacles in the past . . . If this motu proprio had arrived earlier, [the probe] never would have been launched.”Bankers estimate that the IOR, which does not publish its accounts, holds assets worth about $5bn
. It is administered by five cardinals, has no shareholders and disburses its profits to charities.