Vatican Bank funds retained in court money-laundering inquiry

 

A ROME tribunale di riesame, a sort of fast-track appeals court, this week refused to release €23 million of Vatican Bank funds, sequestered last month by Rome prosecutors within the context of a investigation into possible money-laundering.

To the discomfort of the directors of the Holy See and Vatican Bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the tribunal this week essentially ruled that the prosecutors had been fully entitled to sequester the funds “because of omitted and incomplete information to controlling authorities with regard to the nature of the operation”.

Banca d’Italia inspectors and state prosecutors had expressed reservations about two Vatican Bank transactions that may not have complied with anti-money-laundering requirements, namely the transfer of €20 million to JP Morgan Frankfurt and of €3 million to the Italian Banca di Fucino.

At the time, IOR president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi claimed the “incomplete information” had been the result of a simple mistake, due to a bureaucratic oversight, adding that IOR had been transferring its own funds.

Furthermore, the Vatican secretariat of state quickly issued a communiqué in which it expressed its “perplexity and bewilderment” about the inquiry, expressing its full confidence in Gotti Tedeschi.

This week’s ruling, however, would suggest the IOR still has a case to answer. In justifying their sequester of the IOR funds, Roman magistrates Nello Rossi and Stefano Rocco Fava pointed to at least three other “suspect” operations from 2009, which had completely ignored Italian money-laundering regulations.

Furthermore, media speculation suggests the IOR may have been used to transfer money, subsequently used as bribes within the ambit of the “Grandi Appalti” scandal over the awarding of public contracts for major events. These included last year’s G8 summit in La Maddalena, Sardinia (later moved to L’Aquila), the 2009 World Swimming Championships and next year’s 150th anniversary celebrations of the Unity of Italy.

  • Protesters set rubbish trucks alight and threw firecrackers and stones at police near Naples yesterday as clashes flared over waste dumps aimed at easing the latest garbage crisis in the city. Police used tear gas overnight to disperse several hundred protesters near a waste treatment centre, and briefly held two people. Demonstrators smashed shop windows with clubs and burned at least five bin trucks in Terzigno and Boscoreale, two towns at the core of the protests.