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Vatican bank card payments suspended by Italy

Move prompted by failure to implement money-laundering laws

04 January, 13:38
Vatican bank card payments suspended by Italy (ANSA) - Rome, January 4 - Visitors to the Vatican's museums and shops are having to pay in cash after the Bank of Italy suspended bank-card payments in the city state over failure to fully implement international anti-money laundering standards.

Last month the central bank denied Deutsche Bank Italy, the Vatican's former provider of electronic payment services, a permit because of the Vatican's shortcomings in financial controls and oversight.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the problem would be quickly overcome.

"Relations between certain Vatican City offices and one of their providers for services regarding the use of credit cards and electronic payments was coming to an end," Lombardi said.

"Contacts have been made with various other service providers and the interruption will be short-lived, although it has not been established how long it will last". The Holy See is trying to join the 'white list' of states that, unlike tax havens, respect international standards on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In July the Council of Europe's Moneyval department said in a report that the Holy See had made progress on financial transparency, but added that more reforms were needed.

Last year the Holy See appointed a Swiss expert, Rene' Bruelhart, to work on Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) activities and strengthen the Holy See's framework to fight financial crimes.

In the past there have been allegations that the Vatican Bank, the IOR, was used to launder money, most notably by 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging under Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected victim of the Mafia.

IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the 1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy's old political establishment.

More recently, there has been a series of Italian TV reports and a best-selling book claiming to show how individuals have used IOR to squirrel away money, dodging Italian regulations.