Vatican’s finance watchdog finds new signs of money laundering

City A.M. Reporter
THE VATICAN’S new financial watchdog said yesterday it had detected six possible attempts to use the Holy See to launder money last year, citing this as proof of its commitment to transparency.

The head of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), presenting its first annual report, also said it would soon have stronger supervisory powers over the Vatican’s scandal-plagued bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), dubbed the world’s most secretive bank by Forbes magazine.

The Vatican is trying to meet international standards to combat the financing of terrorism, money laundering and tax evasion, but the European anti-money laundering committee, Moneyval, said in July that the IOR still had some way to go. The FIA is due to report back in December.

Rene Bruelhart, the Swiss lawyer and anti-laundering expert who heads the FIA, said that of the six suspected cases of money laundering handled by his office in 2012, two were considered serious enough to be passed on to the Vatican’s prosecutor.

He gave no details of any of the cases but said it was possible that some of the other four could also be passed on for formal investigation.

The IOR primarily handles funds for Vatican departments, Roman Catholic charities and orders of priests and nuns around the world, but has been abused by third parties in the past.

Bruelhart, formerly the top anti-money laundering expert in the tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein, held up the annual report and the press conference, both the first of their kind, as a sign that the Vatican was getting its house in order.