Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Render unto caesar...or whatever

This is no ordinary bank: The ATMs are in Latin and priests use a private entrance. The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion or IOR had one of its accounts closed by JP Morgan. Just weeks after the US State Department listed the Vatican as being potentially vulnerable to money laundering aMilan affiliate of JP Morgan said it will shut the account by the end of the month after revealing Vatican bankers had been "unable to respond" to requests for details about payment transfers into the account. The Milan branch had been seeking information since 2010, when the Vatican bank was accused by authorities in Rome of contravening money-laundering regulations. Italy's leading financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore report gave the number of the IOR account, said some 1.5 billion euros passed through it in about 18 months. It said the account was a "sweeping facility," meaning that it was emptied out at the end of each day with funds transferred to another IOR account in Germany.

Police seized $30 million in Vatican assets in September. The Vatican calls the seizure of assets a "misunderstanding" and expresses optimism it will be quickly cleared up. But court documents show that prosecutors say the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws "with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital." The documents also reveal investigators' suspicions that clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and Mafia. The documents pinpoint two transactions that have not been reported: one in 2009 involving the use of a false name, and another in 2010 in which the Vatican Bank withdrew $860,000 from an Italian bank account but ignored bank requests to disclose where the money was headed. In an unusual move, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi president of the Vatican bank, was placed under investigation. In his testimony, Gotti Tedeschi said he knew next to nothing about the bank's day-to-day operations, noting that he had been on the job less than a year and works at the bank only two full days a week. It does not help that Gotti Tedeschi that the bank's No. 2 official, Paolo Cipriani, is also under investigation for alleged violations of money-laundering laws.

The Vatican has a shady past on financial transparency and propriety. It has included its involvement in the bankruptcy of Italy's largest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, in 1982. Its president, Roberto Calvi, nicknamed "God's Banker", was found hanged beneath London's Blackfriars Bridge, with investigators unable to rule whether he had committed suicide or was murdered. Critics say the "Vatican Bank" has never shed its penchant for secrecy and scandal.

Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 book, said "I don't trust them," he said. "After the previous big scandals, they said 'we'll change' and they didn't. It's happened too many times."

The Vatican proclaims its innocence. In an e-mail Gotti Tedeschi questioned the motivations of the prosecutors. In a speech in October, he described a wider plot against the church.

Perhaps, it is all because of an Illuminati nefarious scheme. SOYMB doubts it, though. The rather mundane reason is that like every multi-million business enterprise the Vatican bank has to engage day to day with the demands of capitalism to maximise its financial return and just as Barclays were involved in tax avoidance, no doubt the financial representatives of the Pope were participating in something similar.

Source 1

Source 2

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