Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register reminds us that when it comes to Vatican finances, the Mafia has more transparency:
VATICAN CITY — By October 2016, two years into his term as prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal George Pell had become aware of a Vatican dicastery handling large amounts of unregistered cash in offshore accounts.
But nearly three years later the questions raised by Cardinal Pell about the management of Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), the dicastery which handles the Vatican’s real estate and financial assets, have seemingly gone unanswered. Pell had identified money laundering and fraud risks related to the APSA’s use of foreign bank accounts and had questioned particular asset and real estate transactions.
Keen to move swiftly ahead with Pope Francis’ mandate to root out mismanagement and possible corruption in Vatican financial operations, the cardinal prefect contacted Australian banking friends in London in 2016 to find out more. They estimated that possibly as much as €100 million could be held in these accounts, primarily in the branches of two private banks located in Lugano, Switzerland.
Cardinal Pell responded by saying he would ask a Swiss law firm to first collect bank statements going back 10 years of one of these accounts, and to have the Vatican’s auditor general, Libero Milone, a former partner with Deloitte, a multinational financial auditing and consultancy firm, inspect them. To do this, Pell had to ask in writing for Pope Francis’ permission, which the Holy Father duly gave him with a simple signature.
Yet the bank statements never made it to Cardinal Pell or Milone — both of whom subsequently departed from their Vatican positions. An alleged sexual abuse scandal overshadowed the cardinal, and a barrage of accusations besieged Milone but a year later Vatican officials exonerated the auditor following an internal investigation that failed to produce evidence to support the accusations.
Sources say the initiative to obtain the bank statements was most likely sabotaged after certain individuals became aware of the inquiry. Officials at APSA often used the excuse that they were having difficulty obtaining the data when asked for information pertaining to these accounts.
“They were delaying it, having ‘problems,’” said one of two informed sources in comments to the Register. “Effectively they were shielding the accounts.”
A major part of the resistance, the Register has learned, is that much of the money was kept in “ciphered accounts” which the Promontory Financial Group — one of several outside contractors brought in to help clean up Vatican finances — warned in 2014 were a money laundering and fraud risk that needed to be addressed.
While many of the accounts are now thought to be closed, it remains unclear exactly how many there were or if any are still operating. (Promontory believed there were at least six accounts generating potentially problematic activity).
Although Cardinal Pell’s former dicastery, now headed by former APSA deputy Msgr. Luigi Mistò, is in charge of vigilance and control over APSA, sources say it appears unlikely that the dicastery will ever know the precise amounts that were held in these accounts, or to whom they belonged.
‘Highly Irregular Transactions’
The accounts in question had irregular international banking numbers, making them difficult to track.
The money that was thought to have been in these accounts, in the Lugano branches of two private banks, Banca della Svizzera Italiana and Julius Bär, could have been as much as €7 billion, according to some estimates. Both banks refused to confirm or deny the existence of the accounts: a Julius Bär spokeswoman told the Register July 11 that as a “matter of policy” they “do not comment on alleged or existing client relationship.”
The existence of the offshore accounts and the difficulty in accounting for them was confirmed to the Register by a second source familiar with the situation.
“It became clear as the months went by that there was a hub of corruption within APSA, and related to this were these two banks in Lugano,” said the source on condition of anonymity. “Highly irregular transactions were transiting through these banks.”
Neither Claudia Ciocca, a director in the Secretariat for the Economy charged with investigating these accounts, nor Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, the current APSA president, responded to the Register’s request for comment.
Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority which monitored APSA until 2016, told the Register that as far as he was concerned, it was “not correct” to describe these as “illicit accounts.” He said he “cannot disclose if we found anomaly indicators.”
Di Ruzza said that “as a general rule,” if the Authority does find anomalies, it “spontaneously provides” and requests information from “its foreign counterparts” including Italian ones if “the interested subject is an Italian citizen or the transaction is connected with the Italian territory.” He declined to answer whether it made this verification when the Authority had oversight for APSA.
Go here to read the rest. Your Church dollars at work.