Vatican Says It Strengthened Efforts to Combat Money Laundering

The Vatican said it stepped up efforts to improve financial transparency and prevent money laundering as pressure continues for compliance with international standards.

The Holy See and the Vatican City “have strengthened their efforts for the prevention and countering of money laundering and financing of terrorism” to represent an effective global partner, the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority’s director, Rene Bruelhart, said in the agency’s annual report published today. Future challenges “are several and require perseverance.”

In July Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s monitoring body for money laundering and terrorism financing, gave the Vatican a mixed report card, saying it was making progress in complying with international standards on financial transparency, though it still needed to improve supervision of transactions. That report stressed the importance of independent supervision of the Vatican bank, which is formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR.

The election of Pope Francis on March 13 followed the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI, which came as the Vatican struggles to emerge from an era of scandal and intrigue.

Vatican Bank

Former executives of the Vatican bank were placed under investigation by Italian prosecutors in 2010 for allegedly omitting data in wire transfers from an Italian account amid suspicion of violations of money-laundering rules. The probe triggered calls to bring the city-state in line with European Union rules.

In one of his final acts Benedict XVI appointed Ernst von Freyberg to lead the embattled institution. The Vatican bank will publish its financial accounts for the first time by the end of 2013, news agency Ansa cited von Freyberg, as saying May 14.

Financial intelligence data “show an increased reporting of suspicious activity in the fourth quarter of 2012,” due to the consolidation of anti-money laundering legislation, the Vatican agency said today. Data show “an effective system for reporting suspicious activities.”

Credit and debit card payments were suspended for several days in January in the papal state after the Bank of Italy refused a request to keep providing the services by the operator on grounds the Vatican didn’t comply with international money-laundering rules. The Vatican contracted a new provider in February.

This month the Vatican’s regulator signed a deal with the U.S. in which each side will share information about financial transactions. Moneyval’s recommendations are used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to decide whether a nation should be included on the so-called white list of countries complying with international standards on financial transparency.

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