Anti-money laundering experts in the Vatican

Their visit was long planned, but a few days after Cardinal Becciu’s forced resignation on suspicion of favoritism, it took a special turn. Inspectors from Moneyval, a Council of Europe body that ensures that 32 signatory states comply with international anti-money laundering standards, are due to begin their assessment work at the Vatican on Wednesday (September 30th). An audit that is expected to last 15 days, until October 13, and was originally scheduled for April, before being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

→ READ. The Vatican’s unprecedented transparency effort on its finances

The work of Moneyval’s inspectors actually started in March 2019, as this committee of experts always does when they travel to a country. This very long process should lead to the adoption and publication of a report by this European institution at the end of April 2021.

Last audit in 2015

Specialized in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, Moneyval’s inspectors must examine whether the internal mechanisms of the Vatican make it possible to guard against money laundering. They will focus in particular on the progress made by the Holy See since the last audit, carried out in 2015. They must in particular study the functioning and the effectiveness of the Financial Information Authority of the Holy See (AIF), created in 2010 by Benedict XVI, whose stated objective is to prevent any laundering of dirty money. It is under the aegis of this authority, whose powers were strengthened in 2013 by Pope Francis, that the Vatican bank announced in 2016, the closure of nearly 5,000 suspicious accounts.

In a report published in December 2017 – the fourth in six years – the Council of Europe body particularly welcomed “Progress” in Vatican financial transparency. The report pointed out that “The continued number of suspicious activity reports from the IOR (the Vatican bank, editor’s note) after the conclusion of the agreement seems to indicate that the reporting of suspicious activities is well integrated in the practice Holy See ”. Looking at the functioning of the AIF, the Moneyval inspectors nevertheless noted that vacant positions had to be filled and that staff were ” not yet fully up to par ».

The report also noted that “Even if considerable sums continued to be frozen”, no criminal case had resulted in a confiscation of capital or even a trial in the Vatican court.

Sensitive context

This inspection, although planned for a long time, is taking place in a particularly sensitive context. Because when they arrive at the Vatican, the Moneyval experts will find themselves in front of the staff of the Curia in shock at the forced resignation of Angelo Becciu, in particular accused of having given his brothers money to the Church, and whose relatives were precisely implicated in opaque investment cases. In May 2020, several relatives of the cardinal were arrested and dismissed by the Vatican, after an investigation launched in July 2019 at the request of Pope Francis.

→ TO (RE) READ. A new director appointed to head the Vatican’s “financial policeman”

It also comes as the smallest state in the world has just announced the appointment to the Vatican court of an additional promoter of justice (equivalent to a prosecutor). If the reasons for the appointment, for three years, of Gianluca Perone, specialist in commercial law, have not been given, it is linked, according to information collected by The cross, to a strengthening of the fight against money laundering wanted by the Pope.

“It is clear that the fall of Becciu and the appointment of this judge are, a few days after the arrival of the Moneyval inspectors, a very strong signal sent to the international community.”, deciphers someone close to the Pope. “Even if everything is not yet settled, it is a way for François to say that the site is in progress, and that he does not intend to drop it. The credibility of its action is at stake. “

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