Mercoledì, 26 Giugno 2019
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Vatican says zero tolerance on bank wrongdoing


(By Denis Greenan).
Vatican City, July 12 - The Vatican on Friday said
it would from now on show "zero tolerance" to illicit dealings
at its troubled bank, whether committed by clerics or people
outside the Church.
"The Vatican is determined to pursue a zero-tolerance
policy on possible financial irregularities, whether by clerics
or lay persons," Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, citing
a recent statement from the new head of the Vatican Bank, Ernst
von Freyberg.
Lombardi was speaking shortly after a Vatican prosecutor
froze two accounts held in the Vatican Bank by a top prelate and
former accounting chief arrested in connection with a failed
attempt to fly 20 million euros of laundered money back from
Switzerland to Italy.
A Vatican investigation into suspect transactions at the
bank, whose official name is Institute for Religious Works
(IOR), may be extended to other persons as well as Msgr Nunzio
Scarano, Lombardi said.
Scarano, who until recently led a key Vatican accounting
unit, was refused release to house arrest this week in a probe
claiming he conspired with a former Italian spy and a financial
broker to try to secretly repatriate the cash, allegedly the
fruit of tax evasion by a family close to the prelate.
Scarano, from the port city of Salerno near Naples, was
suspended a month ago from his job as head of analytic accounts
at the Holy See's asset-management agency APSA when police
started sifting through his assets because of his
suspiciously large financial holdings and artistic trove.
In a case that garnered worldwide headlines, he was
arrested June 28 on suspicion of planning to elude
customs controls along with Giovanni Maria Zito, a recently
transferred agent in the AISI domestic intelligence agency, and
financial broker Giovanni Carenzio.
Police said Scarano and Zito set up a private jet to fly
the cash for three Salerno-based shipowner brothers, the
D'Amicos, whose family was friendly with Scarano.
Zito is suspected of getting 400,000 euros for arranging
cover for the flight, which never took place because of
last-minute cold feet.
The prelate has told prosecutors he "acted in good faith"
and was only "trying to do a favour for the D'Amicos".
Police have said the D'Amico brothers were the alleged
beneficiaries of what they called "a complex and expensive
operation to evade airport customs controls and bring back into
Italy money that is believed to be the fruit of tax evasion".
The Vatican has said it would cooperate "fully" with the
probe, which gained headlines worldwide and was seen as a fresh
blot on the reputation of the troubled IOR.
The Scarano probe is part of a wider investigation into
alleged shady transactions at IOR, in which former president
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his former No.2 were placed under
investigation in connection with suspected money laundering.
Gotti Tedeschi was cleared last week but his No.2 and
another official were charged in the case.
IOR, to which APSA is indirectly linked, said it would
launch an internal inquiry "in line with the zero-tolerance
policy promoted by (new) president Ernst von Freyberg".
German aristocrat and industrialist von Freyberg, appointed
in February by Pope Benedict XVI in one of his last official
acts as pontiff, last month vowed to bring greater transparency
to IOR's dealings.
Von Freyberg said the bank planned to publish its profit
and loss accounts online by the year's end and would run checks
on its 19,000 account holders.
In addition, the bank will start to have a different
"communication policy", and plans to give interviews with
"qualified representatives of the international press", von
Freyberg said.
The Vatican Bank has made a series of moves to show greater
transparency since Argentinian Jesuit bishop Jorge Mario
Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March, succeeding Benedict XVI,
the first pontiff to voluntarily abdicate in 700 years.
As a new broom with a reputation for plain talking, Francis
is reportedly keen to remove stains from IOR's reputation and
get it onto the 'white list' of countries with unimpeachable
anti-money-laundering credentials.
The new pope has vowed to take on power elites in the
Curia, or central governance, of the Catholic Church, and
recently admitted he would even have to tackle a gay lobby.
Two days before the Scarano case broke Francis set up a
pontifical commission on IOR, to brief the pontiff on the bank's
activities and make sure it operated in harmony with the
"Church's mission".
After coming into the prosecutors' cross-hairs, IOR has
started working with the Council of Europe's Moneyval
anti-money-laundering agency in a bid to make it onto the white
In a report last July, Moneyval said that the Holy See had
made progress on financial transparency, but added that more
reforms were needed.
The Italian press has increasingly speculated on the fate
of the scandal-plagued bank, wondering whether the pontiff might
reorganize or shut it down.
The new IOR panel will be chaired by Cardinal Raffaele
Farina, and it will include another three prelates and Harvard
Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former United States
Ambassador to the Holy See.
Last month the Vatican's financial watchdog published its
first annual report on the Holy See's efforts to combat money
laundering and funding terrorism.
In it, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) said it
had uncovered six cases of suspect transactions in 2012, a
notable increase since 2011 when only one such case was flagged.
Two of those cases were sent on to Vatican prosecutors for
a probe.
AIF Director Rene' Bruelhart did not go into the specifics
of the transactions, specifying only that "they were not tied to
financing terrorism".
Established by Benedict XVI in 2010, the AIF is charged
with monitoring the commercial and monetary activities of
Vatican agencies like the Vatican Bank.
Over the years the Vatican Bank has acquired a murky image
on transparency.
There have been allegations that IOR was used to launder
money most notably by 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi, the former
head of Italy's biggest private bank, whose body was found
hanging under Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected
victim of the Sicilian mafia.
IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the
1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part
of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy's old
political establishment.
More recently, there has been a series of Italian TV
reports and a best-selling book claiming to show how individuals
have used IOR to squirrel away money, dodging Italian
A Vatican report to Moneyval is due in December on the
basis of a questionnaire the Holy See will receive in September.

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