Reports of suspicious financial activity up at Vatican

'Proves system working' says intelligence chief

Reports of suspicious financial activity up at Vatican

Rome, August 9 - The success of the Vatican's commitment to greater financial surveillance is demonstrated by the rise in suspicious activities detected, the head of financial intelligence there said Friday. In an interview published in the daily La Repubblica, Rene Bruelhart said the Vatican's latest measures toward greater financial enforcement are already proving themselves. The rising number of suspicious transaction reports this year - with more reported to date in 2013 than in the previous year - proves the system is effective, said Bruelhart, director of the Vatican's watchdog Financial Information Authority (AIF). ''The suspicious transaction reports detected in 2013 are significantly more than the six recorded in 2012,'' Bruelhart is quoted as saying. ''That fact...signals that the system of controls is working''. In May, the AIF said it had uncovered six cases of suspect transactions in 2012, a notable increase since 2011 when only one such case was flagged. His comments came one day after Pope Francis issued a papal decree aimed at strengthening and broadening the scope of financial surveillance in order to combat money laundering and corruption. The papal law, known as a ''motu proprio,'' gives the AIF the new task of prudential supervision over all areas of the Curia, the Church's administration, as well as its other institutions. The decree was a further step towards making it compliant with international standards, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said following Thursday's announcement. The new regulations at the Holy See will not only combat money laundering, but also the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It 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''. In another step in the Vatican's efforts to become more financially transparent and internationally compliant, it recently signed a formal agreement with the Bank of Italy on banking and financial information to fight money laundering. The agreement, signed July 26, was based on a model prepared by the Egmont Group, the global network of financial intelligence units. The agreement contains clauses on reciprocity, confidentiality and the permitted uses of financial information. The Holy See's reputation on financial transparency had been hit hard by 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.

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