Vatican gets mixed review for efforts to fight financial corruption
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering unit, released a long-awaited report on Wednesday, June 9, giving the Vatican and the Holy See sufficient marks for compliance with international anti-money laundering laws. -corruption for The leaders of the Catholic Church claim the success of the campaign for greater financial transparency.
“The Holy See welcomes the Moneyval report published today and the invitation to continue on the path already started”, declared the Vatican in a press release, while promising to renew “its commitment to continue working for full respect. of the best international parameters ”.
But the 200-page report, which qualifies the Vatican’s risk as “medium-low,” also notes that Moneyval’s concerns have shifted from the possibility of foreigners using Vatican financial institutions to move large sums of money. the possibility for internal personalities to participate. in money laundering schemes.
While Vatican officials believe the risk of corruption among church officials to be low, according to the report, Moneyval’s assessment team “does not agree with this conclusion and believes that the risks presented by insiders are significant ”.
Moneyval, created in 1997 when European countries switched to a common currency, sets standards to fight money laundering and improve financial transparency in more than 200 countries.
The past two years have drawn renewed attention to the long-struggling Vatican finances, as the Vatican Secretary of State’s 2014 investment in luxury real estate property in central London has raised questions about the involvement of an Italian businessman who has since been accused of defrauding the Vatican of about $ 22 million.
The investment ultimately led to the arrest and suspension of five Vatican employees, and in September 2020, Pope Francis stripped Cardinal Angelo Becciu of his cardinal rights and responsibilities, apparently due to financial mismanagement. .
The Moneyval report found that suspects in the London Accord are due to stand trial this summer.
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Moneyval said the scandal is “a red flag” that suggests mid-level and senior figures at the Vatican could abuse the system “for personal or other benefits.” While the Moneyval team praised the new legislation enacted by the Vatican and the Holy See to tackle corruption issues, the team said their assessment can only be complete if the risk posed by Vatican “insiders” is fully valued.
The Moneyval team “remains concerned that the Vatican’s Office of the Promoter of Justice still does not have sufficient resources to simultaneously deal with several complex economic and financial cases in a timely manner,” the report said.
In March, a British judge said that documents filed by the offices of the Promoter of Justice in the London real estate case were riddled with “non-disclosures and misrepresentations”, suggesting that the Vatican’s judiciary still has to pay. way to go to adapt to international standards.
The report criticized the October 2019 searches of the offices of ASIF, the Vatican’s financial monitoring agency, which revealed confidential information.
But Moneyval praised a 2018 law reform that allowed the Vatican to seize or freeze financial assets derived from money laundering, both at home and abroad. The Vatican and the Holy See have cooperated with foreign governments such as Italy and Switzerland to monitor money laundering programs, the report notes, finding “no particular obstacle in this area.”
Moneyval’s report amounts to a positive assessment of the church’s efforts, giving ASIF President Carmelo Barbagallo the opportunity to compare the Vatican’s Moneyval rating to those the agency assigned to more than 100 countries in its the latest round of evaluations: “The ratings given to Vatican jurisdiction are among the best, better than many economically advanced countries, and much larger,” Barbagallo said in a document released by the Vatican.
“This report recognizes what has been built over the years, the result of excellent teamwork,” he said.
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