Vatican ill-equipped to deal with financial crime: monitor

Vatican ill-equipped to deal with financial crime: monitor

The Vatican’s judicial system is still ill-equipped to deal with financial crimes despite progress in many areas, the Council of Europe said in a new report Wednesday.

The council’s anti-money laundering committee Moneyval recommended Pope Francis’ judicial authorities recruit more prosecutors with a practical experience in complex financial crime and strengthen the financial investigation unit.

It also recommended “a comprehensive procedure for petitioning the Holy Father” when requesting consent to bring criminal proceedings against cardinals and bishops.

The report underlined the shortage of staff in the Vatican’s judiciary, noting the slow pace of legal proceedings, a reference to a years-long trial against a former head of the Vatican Bank.

Angelo Caloia was finally jailed in January for almost nine years for embezzlement and money laundering relating to corrupt real estate deals — the first time the Vatican State had imposed a prison term for a financial crime.

The Moneyval inspection, which was carried out before his conviction, said the sentences previously handed down by the Vatican judiciary “appear rather minimal”, saying they are “not proportionate and dissuasive”.

Overall, “results in court have been modest” with just two convictions for money-laundering in the previous eight years, in 2018 and 2019.

For the past two years, the Vatican has been mired in an internal investigation into the opaque and potentially unethical financing by the Holy See of a luxury London building.

Last year, the pope also fired one of the most influential cardinals at the Vatican, Angelo Becciu, following accusations of embezzlement of funds, which he denies.

The cardinal also played a key role in the London investment deal.

Moneyval noted that such cases “raised a red flag for potential abuse of the internal system by mid-level and senior figures”.

Elsewhere, however, the report hailed the Vatican authorities for their efforts to ensure “constructive international cooperation” in the areas of money-laundering and terrorist financing.

It hailed a “rigorous risk-based transaction monitoring programme” and highlighted controls to prevent criminals and their associates sitting on the board of institutions.

In a statement, the Holy See welcomed the report, pledging its “commitment to continue working towards full compliance with the best international parameters”.

It was also welcomed by the Vatican’s financial watchdog, which was recently renamed and reformed after itself being targeted in the investigation into the London deal.

The offices of the body now named the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority (ASIF) were raided in 2019, its number two was suspended and its chief stepped down.

Agence France-Presse

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