Vatican City

Pope tightens screws on money laundering

New regulations aim to satisfy Moneyval

Pope tightens screws on money laundering

(By Christopher Livesay) Vatican City, August 8 - The Vatican said Thursday that Pope Francis has issued new regulations at the Holy See to combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The regulations, announced in a papal decree known as a Motu Proprio, are part of the pope's drive to clean up the Holy See's reputation on financial transparency. This has been hit by a number of scandals, including several at the Vatican Bank, officially called the Institute of Religious Works (IOR). Francis is keen to remove stains from the bank'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. "(The decree) is a step forward in the process of adjusting Vatican regulations to international standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, a process already underway for some time and which also makes use of the dialogue with the authorities of Moneyval," said Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. Last year Moneyval said in a report the Vatican had made progress on financial transparency but still needed to improve in many areas. The Vatican said the decree strengthens the supervisory and regulatory function of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority (AIF). It also gives the AIF "the function of prudential supervision over entities habitually engaged in financial activities," in response to a recommendation from Moneyval. The decree also establishes a new body, the Financial Security Committee, for the purpose of "coordinating the competent authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State in the area of prevention and countering of money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction". Amid various scandals, the Italian press has been speculating that the pontiff may be planning to reorganize or even shut down the IOR. Rumors were fueled last week in a candid conversation with journalists aboard Francis's flight back from Brazil where he had made his first visit as pope. "Proposals for reform are many...I don't know what is going to happen with the IOR: some say it's better to have a bank, others say a foundation's what's needed and others say it should be shut down. I trust in the work being done by the people employed in the IOR and the commission. But whatever happens to the IOR, what is needed for sure is transparency and honesty," Francis said. Since his election in March Francis has overseen a number of financial regulatory maneuvers at the Holy See. The Argentine pontiff in July announced the appointment of a panel of eight experts, including a young female Ernst & Young accounting executive, to run a pontifical commission aimed at monitoring the economic and organizational structure of Vatican City. Last week the Vatican Bank launched a new website where it will publish its annual balance sheet. Ernst Von Freyberg, who was appointed as head of the embattled bank in February, said that an "international organization" would be consulted to oversee that transactions are in accordance with Vatican and international standards. The Vatican Bank and several of its employees have been probed by Italian magistrates in the past.

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