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Vatican bank in money-laundering probe

Chairman placed under investigation

21 September, 13:40
Vatican bank in money-laundering probe (ANSA) - Rome, September 21 - Vatican Bank Chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is under investigation for suspected failure to observe Italy's money-laundering laws, police said Tuesday.

Another top executive of the Istituto per le Opere Religiose (IOR) bank is also under investigation, they said, without naming him.

Currency police have impounded, as a precautionary measure, some 23 million euros the IOR has deposited at the Credito Artigiano SpA, a private bank that is part of the Credito Valtellinese group.

It is the first time such action has been taken against the IOR, which, as the Bank of Italy recalled Tuesday, is to be considered a non-European Union bank.

The probe was opened by Rome magistrates to determine whether a 2007 Italian law on transparency in regard to the identity of account holders was violated.

The possibility that the Vatican accounts violated this law was raised by the Bank of Italy special 'financial intelligence' unit, which on September 15 suspended two transactions ordered by the IOR from its account with the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano because they were deemed suspicious.

These involved 20 million euros sent to the German bank J.P.Morgan Frankfurt, and three million sent to a central-Italian bank, Banca del Fucino.

The IOR is said to hold 28 million euros at the Credito Artigiano branch.

On November 25, investigators were also said to be focusing on one or more accounts IOR opened with Unicredit, Italy's biggest bank, through which some 60 million euros has transited over the past three years.

The accounts were opened at a branch of Unicredit, then Banca di Roma, located on the avenue which leads into St Peter's Square, via della Conciliazione, in Italian territory.

Judicial sources said the probe was centered on clarifying the "opaque screen" which hid the identity of the person, persons or organizations that had actual control over the IOR accounts.

Investigators were also said to be trying to discover the beneficiaries of cheques and bank drafts issued from the IOR accounts and who ordered them.

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