The director of the Financial Information Authority, Brülhart, says the Vatican system is in line with international standards. Following the IOR inspection, AIF has developed an action plan for the full adaption of procedures to the requirements of Law XVIII
Iacopo Scaramuzzi Taken from Vatican Insider
The 2013 Vatican Financial Information Authority (AIF) report shows an increased number of suspicious financial transactions, a decrease in the number of cross-border cash declarations, progress made in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The AIF’s director, René Brülhart, presented the annual report (the second one since the AIF’s establishment) at a press conference today. Brülhart said the AIF has concluded its inspection of the IOR and the coordination with the newly created Secretariat of the Economy – which Pope Francis has put Australian cardinal George Pell in charge of – is underway. In answer to the internal conflicts within the IOR in recent months, the Swiss expert assured that the IOR’s system of governance was fully functioning.
“The AIF has recorded a notable uptake in suspicious transaction reports (STR) from 6 in 2012 to 202 in 2013,” a summary statement given by Brülhart reads. “This increase reflects both the development of the legal framework and a substantial improvement in the operational performance of the supervised entities with regard to the prevention of financial crime. Five reports have been passed on to the Vatican Promoter of Justice for further investigation by judicial authorities.” he number of declarations of cash above the amount of EUR 10,000 has decreased again in 2013 to 1,557 declarations for outgoing cash (2012: 1,782) and 550 declarations for incoming cash (2012: 598). This is due to an increased monitoring by the competent authorities and the introduction of reinforced procedures at the supervised entities.” The number of information requests submitted by the AIF to foreign competent authorities “has increased from 1 in 2012 to 28” while the number of requests received by the AIF from foreign authorities has climbed from 3 in 2012 to 53 in 2013.” “This increase is also due to international cooperation fostered by a series of bilateral agreements we have concluded,” Brülhart said. He recalled that last year the Vatican Financial Authority joined the Egmont Group, the global network of Financial Intelligence Units and signed various bilateral agreements to institutionalize mutual collaboration in the area of anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism. Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the United States.”
Brülhart did not wish to reveal any details regarding the 202 suspicious operations reported. All that he said in answer to journalists’ questions was that not all of these operations were linked to accounts being closed – a process that has been going on for months – but some were. He also did not comment on “specific cases” such as the Italian investigation into the bishop emeritus Siena Gaetano Bonicelli. With regard to the alleged discrepancy between Italian and Vatican findings to do with cross-border cash or bond transfers to the bearer, we have had talks with the competent Italian authority, the UIF (the Bank of Italy’s financial intelligence unit, Ed.), only.”
“In the initial trimester of 2014, AIF conducted the first ordinary on-site inspection of the IOR to verify the implementation of the measures taken to prevent and counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism pursuant to the Law XVIII of 8 October 2013,” promulgated by Pope Francis. “The inspection has shown substantial progress made by the IOR over the past 12 months. As a result of the inspection, AIF has developed an action plan for the full adaption of procedures to the requirements of Law XVIII and the implementation of further organizational and procedural improvements.” More generally, Brülhart added that “the Evaluation conducted by Moneyval, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism of the Council of Europe, in December 2013, and our statistics allow us to say that today we have a proper and equivalent system in place to prevent and fight financial crime. A system that is well in line with international standards.”
Although there has been some upheaval in the AIF in recent months (its president, Cardinal Attilio Nicora retired and was replaced by Mgr. Giorgio Corbellini in January. The press got hold of a confidential letter sent by the administrative board protesting how the authority’s work was going), Brülhart told journalists that in 2013, Francis issued a clear and transparent statute clearly outlining competencies and responsibilities and the 2013 report was implemented fully, in line with the current laws in force.” The report states that in 2013, the administrative board was composed of Giuseppe Dalla Torre, Claudio Bianchi, Marcello Condemi, Cesare Testa and Francesco De Pasquale. In answer to questions about his own salary, an issue which ended up in the press, Brülhart said: “I have never answered any questions of a personal nature and I do not intend to do so.” In terms of the new Vatican structure, it is still a little early to define relations between the AIF and the newly created Secretary of the Economy, partly because the new dicastery does not have any statutes yet. But in terms of transparency and professionalism, all is positive. Although the AIF is an independent body, Brülhart assured there will be a proper coordination.