Vatican Bank in the Spotlight over Money Laundering Claim

By Paddy Agnew
Irish Times
September 22, 2010

THE UGLY ghosts of Roberto Calvi, Archbishop Marcinkus, P2 and the Banco Ambrosiano hovered uneasily in the Roman air yesterday as it was revealed that the Vatican bank, IOR (Istituto per le Opere di Religione) is currently under investigation for possible violations of Italian money laundering regulations.

Ever since it emerged that Archbishop Marcinkus had, wittingly or unwittingly, involved the Vatican Bank in the affairs of Roberto Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano, a bank that collapsed spectacularly in 1982 with debts of $1.3 billion (ˆ980 million), the very name IOR prompts controversy.

The Holy See yesterday found that IOR is once again in the eye of the storm with both Banca d’Italia and state investigators expressing reservations about two Vatican bank transactions which do not appear to have complied with anti-money laundering requirements.

At the heart of this investigation are two transfers – one for ˆ20 million to JP Morgan Frankfurt and the other for ˆ3 million to the Italian Banca del Fucino – about which IOR is alleged to have failed to provide enough information, thus prompting the Bank of Italy to automatically suspend the transactions.

Not surprisingly, the Vatican secretariat of state issued a communique in which it expressed its “perplexity and bewilderment”at the case.

Furthermore, the Holy See expressed its “full confidence” in IOR president Etorre Gotti Tedeschi, who is now on the list of those under investigation: “It is well known that the Holy See authorities have often expressed their desire for full transparency regarding the financial operations of IOR . . . for that reason, IOR authorities have for some time been in close contact both with the Bank of Italy, as well as with competent international organisations such as the OECD and the Financial Action Taskforce on Money Laundering with a view to having IOR included in the so-called white list .”

While the Holy See expressed its “perplexity” and while director Gotti Tedeschi described himself as “deeply humiliated” by the probe, independent analysts suggest the current investigation comes as no surprise. “ is the most secret bank in the world”, money laundering expert Jeffery Robinson told CNN.

Furthermore, Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of Vaticano Spa , a 2009 analysis of IOR, commented yesterday: “The Bank of Italy’s focus on IOR activities shows that the wall of silence that has long existed between Italy and the pope’s bank has now broken down.”


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