Holy See ‘perplexed’ by probe against Vatican Bank chief

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ROME - The Vatican said it was “perplexed” and “astonished” by reports Tuesday that Italian authorities are investigating the chairman of the Vatican Bank in connection with a money laundering probe.

Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and another, unidentified, top official of the bank were among those being investigated by prosecutors in Rome, the ANSA news agency said.

Tax police have also “preventively” seized some 23 million euros ($30.2 million) deposited by IOR in an account of a Rome branch of the Milan-based bank, Credito Artigiano, ANSA said.

Prosecutors are examining the alleged contravention of anti-money laundering provisions introduced in 2007.

These require banks to notify authorities of transactions involving non-European Union financial institutions such as the IOR.

But in a statement, the Vatican said it had given “full transparency,” with regards to IOR operations including regular contacts with Italy’s central bank authorities.

“The Holy sees thus expresses perplexity and astonishment for the initiative by Rome’s prosecutor’s office,” the Vatican statement said.

It particular it stressed that the information on the transaction allegedly being investigated had already been provided to Italy’s central bank.

“The Holy See hence expresses its full trust in the chairman and director general of the IOR,” the statement added.

The IOR handles accounts of the religious orders and other Catholic associations using the offshore status of the Holy See.

In 1982 the IOR was embroiled in the collapse of an Italian bank the Banco Ambrosiano, of which it was the major shareholder.

The IOR’s then head, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, was under consideration for indictment in 1982 in Italy as an accessory of the bankruptcy, but was protected by his diplomatic immunity as a Vatican prelate.

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