Vatican Bank continues clean-up, transparency drive
IOR publishes first ever annual report01 October, 19:00
(ANSA) - Vatican City, October 1 - The Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), for the first time in its 125-year history on Tuesday issued an annual report as part of a sweeping effort to bring more transparency to the Holy See's finances. IOR's chief Ernst von Freyberg said the bank is currently engaged in deep house-cleaning, with reforms that include anti-money laundering measures and shutting inappropriate accounts.
The IOR on September 23 sent a first wave of 900 letters to clients informing them that the bank is terminating their accounts, Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday, adding that at the end of 2012 the bank had a total of roughly 19,000 accounts.
The Italian newspaper, which did not cite its sources, said the accounts did not pass scrutiny with anti-money-laundering consultant Promontory, hired since May to scrub the bank's books.
The paper added that the accounts of all foreign diplomats accredited with the Vatican City State are among those being terminated, and cited suspiciously large cash transactions made by the diplomatic missions of Iran, Iraq and Indonesia. ''The IOR is engaged in a process of comprehensive reform, to foster the most rigorous professional and compliance standards,'' wrote IOR President Ernst von Freyberg in a note accompanying the website publication of the 2012 annual report.
''This includes implementing strict anti-money laundering processes and improving our internal structures,'' von Freyberg continued.
''We are conducting an extensive evaluation of all our clients' accounts, with the aim of closing down those relationships that are not in line with the IOR's mission,'' he concluded.
Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio on Tuesday that publishing the annual report is part of a three-pillar transparency strategy the IOR launched from the beginning of Pope Francis's pontificate last March: talking to the press on a regular basis - an effort that requiring the formation of a media relations office; establishing an IOR website as a conduit for disclosure; and publishing annual reports for the first time.
Von Freyberg also told radio listeners the IOR had opened its books to respected independent auditors.
''IOR accounts have been (independently) checked for a long time, always by respectable international auditing companies. In 2013 they were checked by KPMG,'' von Fryberg continued.
''We have gone a long way on transparency and compliance,'' the bank chief declared. IOR's 2012 annual report announced a net profit of 86.6 million euros in 2012, or four times 2011's result of 20.3 million euros. The IOR used 54.7 million to increase the Holy See's budget and 31.9 million euros went to a general reserve for operational risks. The report also disclosed for the first time the make-up of the IOR's assets, including 2.73 billion euros in trading securities, 1.2 billion euros of banking deposits, 41.3 million euros of gold, metals and precious coins, and zero derivative financial instruments.