Experts praise Vatican's finance laws, but call for clampdown on crime

By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — European experts on preventing financial crimes praised the
Vatican for significant steps in establishing laws and procedures in line with
international protocols, but called for “real results” in cracking
down on infractions and prosecuting offenses.

— the Council of Europe’s
Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and
the Financing of Terrorism — said the Vatican has addressed “most
of the technical deficiencies in its legislation and regulations.”

there is a need now for the anti-money laundering and counterterrorist
financing system to deliver effective results in terms of prosecutions,
convictions and confiscation” of criminal assets, the experts said in a
press release Dec. 12.

Moneyval committee approved the Holy See-Vatican progress report at a meeting
Dec. 8 in Strasbourg, France,
and published its assessment
of the Vatican’s report on its website Dec. 15.

Moneyval report said the Vatican showed significant progress in implementing
recommendations Moneyval made in July 2012. The Vatican had met nine out of 16
key and core recommendations, thereby passing a major test in an effort to
become more financially transparent and compliant with international norms.

recommendations included improving record keeping; developing procedures for
reporting suspicious transactions; enacting procedures to report transactions
suspected of financing terrorism; ensuring there were procedures for
confiscating accounts; making certain secrecy rules do not impede the
prevention of financial crimes; and designing procedures for freezing and
confiscating terrorist assets.

Moneyval report said the Vatican’s stepped-up efforts in reviewing bank
accounts meant that the number of “suspicious activity reports has risen
sharply since the last report,” numbering 329 reports between January and

prosecutors have received 30 reports for investigation, have frozen about 11
million euros and have launched 29 money-laundering investigations, the report

no indictments or prosecutions have, as yet, been brought in money-laundering
cases,” it said.

example, it said the three cases reported in the first progress report in 2012
are still open and should have no obstacles in coming to a conclusion since
they do not involve any other countries or foreign jurisdictions. Another money-laundering
investigation opened in 2013, which resulted in the seizure of almost 2 million
euros, is also still open, although “it is understood” that the
prosecutor is now deciding on the next steps to take.

though the systems for reporting suspicious and illegal accounts and
transactions are in place and are actively flagging cases, “there still
remains, however, a continued lack of indictments for money laundering or for
related serious proceeds-generating offenses in the three years” since
procedures went into effect. “This situation needs to be improved,”
the report said.

recommended that the Vatican make sure the Vatican police and prosecutor’s
office “have the capacity to conduct proactive financial investigation in
order to deliver real results in the money laundering investigations that are
underway.” And it called for “ad hoc agreements” with foreign
countries in order to expedite prosecution for cases involving cross-border

committee said the “intensive review process” of surveying and
identifying account holders at the Institute for the Works of Religion,
commonly known as the Vatican bank, “appears to have been a success.”

4,800 accounts had been closed according to stricter guidelines for identifying
and verifying customers entitled to hold accounts there, indicating that “these
guidelines are now being followed strictly.”

report confirmed the Financial Intelligence Authority, the Vatican’s oversight
agency, carried out a full inspection of the Vatican bank in 2014 and gave the
bank a follow-up action plan. The intelligence authority was set to conduct a
full inspection of the Administration
of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which handles Vatican investments and real estate
holdings, in December 2015.

December 2017 the Vatican is expected to present an update on what steps have
been taken to implement recommendations.

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Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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