The Vatican’s spokesman, Fr. Lombardi, has stressed the IOR’s zero tolerance policy with regard to any activity “that is illegal or outside the Statutes of the Institute”
alessandro speciale Taken from Vatican Insider
Last Tuesday the Vatican Promoter of Justice froze all assets belonging to Mgr. Nuncio Scarano, the suspended director of the accounting analysis service of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) – the Vatican equivalent of the Department of the Treasury.
Fr. Federico Lombardi announced this today, in a revealing statement which places Scarano at the centre of two separate Italian inquiries led by the prosecutions of Rome and Salerno and a Vatican investigation.
“The investigation was triggered by several suspicious transaction reports filed with AIF,” Lombardi said in his statement, stressing that it “could be extended to additional individuals.”
Scarano was arrested last 28 June after Rome’s prosecutors found that he had tried to smuggle 20 million euros approx. in cash from Switzerland into Italy, an operation that was never completed. An inquiry into the activities of the Vatican bank (IOR) was underway at the time. Scarano’s name made headlines in light of the Salerno inquiry into a suspicious batch of donations made by the cleric, nicknamed Monsignor 500 because of the large number of 500 euro notes he had in his possession. He apparently used these to launder money for friends in southern Italy.
The Vatican statement explains that the IOR – where Scarano had several bank accounts – “commissioned an objective review by Promontory Financial Group of the facts and circumstances of the accounts in question and is fully cooperating with the Vatican Financial Intelligence Unit AIF and judicial authorities to bring full transparency in this matter.”
Following the recent resignation of the IOR’s director general, Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli, the Vatican bank asked American financial consulting firm Promontory to cooperate more closely with the Institute. The review process began last May.
IOR president Ernst von Freyberg asked Promontory’s experienced partners-in-charge, Elizabeth McCaul and Raffaele Cosimo, to take on the bank’s management as Senior Advisors. Antonio Montaresi, an Italian banker who worked as Chief Risk Officer in the U.S. for many years, was hired by the IOR to focus on compliance, ensuring that is, that the bank’s internal processes are in line with international standards.
“The IOR is currently undergoing an outside review by Promontory Financial Group of all client relationships and the anti-money-laundering procedures it has in place,” Fr. Lombardi stressed. “In parallel, the Institute is implementing appropriate improvements to its structures and procedures,” a process begun last May, which should be completed by the end of the year.
In his statement, Fr. Lombardi reiterated that “as President Ernst von Freyberg recently pointed out, the IOR is systematically identifying and will have zero tolerance for any activity, whether conducted by laity or clergy, that is illegal or outside the Statutes of the Institute.”
Yesterday the Vatican announced a deep reform of its criminal system, updating financial crime regulations and making cooperation with judicial authorities in other countries easier.
Fr. Davide Cito, a canon lawyer at Rome’s Santa Croce University, says the new regulations will make it possible for the Vatican to chase and punish Holy See employees who carry out operations that harm the Vatican, as in the case of Mgr. Scarano. The new regulations will come into force on 1 September.
IOR: Francis activates his “alertometer”
The Vatican judiciary has ordered that no documents relating to the Vatican bank are to be destoyed or tampered with
“I am very naive about some things but there are certain other things that set my “alertometer” in action,” Jorge Mario Bergoglio once said back in the days when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires. His comment was in reference to cases of corruption involving clerics. Francis’ “alertometer” has certainly been activated now. Various sources have said that last 4 July, the Vatican apparently issued a regulation which prohibits anyone from destroying or tampering with documents relating to the Vatican Bank (IOR). The decision to issue said regulation was taken independently, without prior approval from the Secretariat of State. This is indicative of a new willingness to deal with more thorny issues, without settling for comfortable cover-up operations.
Readers will recall that the director general of the IOR, Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, both handed in their resignations on Monday 1 July. The decision came after the embarrassing revelation of an inquiry into APSA prelare Mgr Nunzio Scarano’s illicit use of his Vatican bank accounts to carry out risky financial operations, all of which were approved by the IOR’s directors.
But in the days following the resignation, the two former managers under investigation were still to be found wandering through the bank’s corridors. Then a third person was added to the list of people under investigation: the lawyer Michele Briamonte. The presence of the two managers and the lawyer made the situation even more problematic. Briamonte, who is both the IOR and Cipriani’s lawyer, is being investigated for inside trading in the case involving Italian bank Monte dei Paschi. He was also involved in an accident which took place in recent months at Rome’s Ciampino airport, when the Guardia di Finanza, one of Italy’s law enforcement agencies, decided to search Briamonte’s luggage, just as he was getting out of his private jet, alongside one of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s secretaries. The check was not carried out in the end as Briamonte produced a Vatican diplomatic passport, claiming immunity from inspection.
The IOR’s new president, Ernst von Freyberg, gave a series of interviews, giving repeated reassurance that Briamonte was no longer the IOR’s lawyer and that he no longer had anything to do with the bank. So why did he return several times according t some sources? And why did he return on the very day outgoing managers Cipriani and Tulli and even President Von Freyberg himself were present in the building? In light of these events, the Vatican judiciary ordered that no IOR document in any format was to be destroyed, tampered with or moved. It was a new dramatic turn of events but not the last in the recent IOR saga.
That Pope Francis was never a fan of shady operations is no mystery. A prelate who follows developments in the Vatican closely, said: “One need only read an excerpt from his conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka in the book “On Heaven and Earth”…” In the book the prelate mentions – which has been published in a number of different languages – Bergoglio described an episode which took place shortly after his nomination as auxiliary bishop in the early 90’s, when Argentina was mired in an economic crisis and one Argentine peso was worth one U.S. dollar. “Two officials came to look for me at the vicar’s residence in Flores, saying they had some money to donate to the poor. They said they were fervent Catholics and handed 400 thousand pesos over to me to invest in charity works in the local poor neighbourhoods. I am a very naive when it comes to some things but on other occasions my “alertometer” is activated. And that time it worked,” the cardinal said.
Bergoglio asked for more details about the projects and the officials ended up telling him that they were only going to give him half of the 400 thousand pesos he was about to sign a receipt for. The future Pope found a clever way out: Since the local vicar’s residences don’t have bank accounts and neither did Bergoglio, he told them they should pay the money directly to the curia, which did not take donations in cash. After that, the two men disappeared. The fact that they were so confident about that this working means another cleric must have tried it before, Francis concluded in the book.
All one needed to do was to listen to the new Pope describe his dream of “a poor Church for the poor” to realise that he intended to carry Benedict XVI’s transparency work through to the end. Some cardinals were dissatisfied by the explanations Cardinal Bertone gave to them about the workings of the Vatican bank, during the pre-Conclave general congregations. It was clear to everyone that reforms needed to be made in the Vatican bank as well. In recent months it became apparent that the monitoring system put in place to keep a check on the activities of the IOR was and is not working, despite the reassurances from Von Freyberg and Financial Information Authority director René Brülhart. So on 15 June, Francis appointed the director of St. Martha’s House, Battista Ricca as temporary Prefect of the IOR. As administrator of the residence that is currently Bergoglio’s home and given that the two often eat at the same table, Ricca is someone Francis trusts and he has authorised access to all documents relating to the Vatican bank.
“When you get to the age of 76, it’s not easy to change your ways and the Pope has done well to keep the same style he used in his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires,” Pelayo said, including his leadership style.
The clearest examples of this are: Francis’ sheer determination to change the image of the IOR and the Vatican as an offshore tax haven; his wish to canonize John XXIII, the Pope who convened the Second Vatican Council, even without confirmation of a second miracle; his decision to visit Lampedusa without a retinue of politicians and Church figures and his decision not to attend a recent concert in the Paul VI Hall because of more pressing duties. Pope Francis is living proof of the truth of Jesuit-taught Pope Roncalli’s comment: “There is no better way of saying something than to do it.”
“When he takes a decision he wants to be certain it is a good one. And once he’s take it, there’s no turning back,” said the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, Eduardo Horacio García, who travelled from Argentina to Rome five days after the Conclave, carrying a pair of black shoes which Francis had had re-heeled. “He is a man of dialogue and insight. He listens, he consults others, he keeps himself informed.” Members of the Argentinean curia were often surprised when they went to inform the cardinal about something, as they quickly realised he was already in the know.
The Pope’s main reform strategy is setting an example. He is not the flame-throwing Terminator figure many would like to see eradicate the Curia’s malpractices. Francis does not usually make hasty decisions. This is why uncertainty is growing among those in the Vatican who have realised they cannot “manage” Francis in the way they used to in the past.