di Riccardo D'Andrea
Vatican City, July 3 - The Vatican said Wednesday that its Financial Information Authority has been admitted to the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units. AIF Director Rene' Bruelhart said the move was "recognition of the systematic efforts of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State to identify and combat money laundering and financing of terrorism". The announcement comes after the Vatican was hit last week by the arrest of a prelate, who until recently was the head of analytic accounts at the Holy See's asset-management agency APSA, for alleged involvement in a failed bid to bring 20 million euros into Italy illegally. Furthermore, the director and and deputy director of the scandal-hit Vatican Bank, (the Institute for Religious Works, IOR) resigned on Monday, amid reports they may be soon be put under investigation in a criminal probe. The Vatican has made a series of moves to show greater transparency in the financial transactions that take place in the city state since Argentinian Jesuit bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March. Francis is reportedly keen to remove stains from IOR's reputation and get the Vatican onto the 'white list' of countries with unimpeachable credentials by working with the Council of Europe's Moneyval anti-money-laundering agency. "Our inclusion in the global network will further enhance our capacity to contribute to the fight against financial crimes," Bruelhart said. In a report last July, Moneyval said that the Holy See had made progress on financial transparency, but added that more reforms were needed. Last week Francis set up a pontifical commission on IOR, to brief the pontiff on the bank's activities and make sure it operated in harmony with the "Church's mission". In May the Vatican's financial watchdog published its first annual report on the Holy See's efforts to combat money laundering and funding terrorism. In it, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) said it had uncovered six cases of suspect transactions in 2012, a notable increase since 2011 when only one such case was flagged. Two of those cases were sent on to Vatican prosecutors for a probe. Bruelhart did not go into the specifics of the transactions, specifying only that "they were not tied to financing terrorism". A Vatican report to Moneyval is due in September. Other efforts to make IOR more transparent include a move to publish its balance sheets online by the end of the year.