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Scarano case 'shows greater transparency at Vatican bank'

Clean-up thanks to Pope Francis, says IOR President Von Freyberg

23 January, 13:05
Scarano case 'shows greater transparency at Vatican bank' (ANSA) - Rome, January 23 - Investigations into an ex-Vatican prelate for suspected financial crimes are demonstration that the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) is making progress in efforts to become more transparent, Vatican Bank President Ernst Von Freyberg said in an interview to La Repubblica newspaper on Thursday. Separate probes into Monsignor Nunzio Scarano for allegedly trying to smuggle millions of euros into Italy on behalf of rich ship-builder friends and of laundering large sums of money through accounts at IOR "demonstrate that the new system works", said Von Freyberg.

"The Financial Information Authority (the Bank's oversight body) noted suspect cases, including those relating to Scarano, passing on the information to the Italian authorities," he added.

At year end 2013 accounts belonging to 10,000 clients had been monitored, with a further 8,000 to go, the president said. The Vatican Bank has been at the centre of numerous scandals in over the years and Pope Francis has made reforming it a central priority since his election to replace Benedict XVI following the latter's abdication last February.

Von Freyberg, who was appointed by Benedict XVI just two weeks before stepping down, praised the Argentinian pope for his support and said that it is thanks to him if the IOR is now more transparent.

"The pope really is governing the Vatican and he has often supported our decisions even when they have been unpopular to some," said the president. Italian banks effectively stopped dealing with the IOR in 2010 after the Bank of Italy ordered them to enforce strict anti-money laundering criteria to continue working with it.

From January 1 to February 12 last year the Bank of Italy froze all credit-card and ATM transactions inside the Vatican City over its failure to fully implement international anti-money-laundering standards.

Now the bank is trying to get onto the 'white list' of countries with strong credentials on combatting financial crime and said Wednesday it is ready to resume financial transactions with Italian banks.

In December the Council of Europe's Moneyval agency, a monitoring group of financial experts, praised the Vatican's progress, but it also stressed that more work needed to be done.