|Vatican "Perplexed and Amazed" As ?19million Money-laundering Scandal Is Uncovered at Its Bank
By Nick Pisa
September 21, 2010
A ?19million money laundering scandal rocked the Vatican today - just days after Pope Benedict XVI's successful visit to Britain.
Police said the Vatican Bank's chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who is known to the Pontiff, was under investigation for suspected failure to observe money-laundering laws.
The probe was launched after tax police in Rome were alerted to two suspicious transactions totaling ?19million (23million euro).
Officers said another bank official - named by Italian media as director general Paolo Cipriani - was also being investigated.
A statement from the Vatican appeared to confirm this - it said it was 'perplexed' by the investigation but had 'full faith in chairman and director general.'
A statement read: 'The Holy See manifests puzzlement and amazement at the initiative by the Rome prosecutor's office, given that the necessary information is already available at the relevant office of the Bank of Italy, and similar transactions commonly take place with other Italian banks.'
The ?19million was impounded as a precautionary measure.
Rome prosecutors Nello Rossi and Stefano Rocco Fava opened their investigation earlier this year to see whether a 2007 law passed in Italy calling on transparency of accounts had been breached.
Alarm bells rang over two suspicious transactions involving a 20million euro transfer to the German bank J.P.Morgan Frankfurt and three million sent to a central-Italian bank, Banca del Fucino.
Prosecution sources said the investigation was to see if the bank had breached regulations for failing to reveal the identity of the person holding the accounts.
They are trying to discover the beneficiaries of cheques and bank drafts issued from the Vatican Bank accounts and who ordered them.
It is not the first time the bank, known as the Istituto per le Opere Religiose, has been implicated in money laundering - in 1982 it was linked to the ?2billion collapse of another bank, Credito Ambrosiano.
Then governor Archbishop Paul Marcinkus escaped investigation by claiming Vatican immunity but in a twist worthy of a Dan Brown blockbuster, Ambrosiano's president Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge.
Calvi was known as God's Banker because of his connections to Marcinkus and the Vatican Bank.
His death was initially ruled as suicide but then became murder after further investigation.
He was found with bundles of cash and stones in his pockets. Italian police believe he was killed by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering scam.
American Archbishop Marcinkus died in 2006, taking the secret of what happened in 1982 to the grave and never fully explaining his involvement with Calvi. He famously once said: 'You can't run the Church on Hail Mary's.'
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