Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Vatican Bank, has strongly denied allegations the bank broke anti-money laundering rules and sees news of the investigation into him and the bank as an attack on him, the institution and the Vatican.

“Since I assumed the presidency of the IOR [Vatican Bank] I have committed my whole self, according to the indications received by the Pope and the Secretary of State, to make every transaction more transparent and in line with international norms against money laundering,” he said in an interview in today’s Il Giornale. “For this reason, I feel really humiliated.” He added: “God is always present in everything I do.”

Gotti Tedeschi, 65, is a father of five, a devout Catholic and member of Opus Dei. He teaches financial ethics at a Catholic university in Milan.

An excerpt from the interview:

What was your reaction to the news of the investigation of IOR and of yourself?

“Bitterness and humiliation. I do not know what else to say. Together with the Director of the Institute, Paolo Cipriani, I am committed to tackling the problems which are now being investigated. We are working to enter the so-called White List, i.e. the list of countries that comply with international anti-money laundering, and we hope to do so by December. I have an excellent relationship with the Bank of Italy and there is a continuous exchange of information ...”.

Can you explain what happened with Credito Artigiano and that 20 million directed to JP Morgan Frankfurt?

“For the moment, let me clarify that that regards a remittance from IOR to IOR: we simply transferred the money to invest in German bonds.”

Why were the rules against money laundering not respected?

“We are implementing the rules. Regarding the object of the investigation, there was an error in the procedure implemented with Credito Artigiano. But the operation is very clear, there is nothing hidden or to hide: only a transfer of funds from IOR itself.

The Secretariat of State has renewed its total confidence ...

“I met Cardinal Bertone, I found him to be very concerned about what happened. I have been invited to remain in my place, also because I’m doing exactly what I was asked to do, that is to make each operation of IOR more transparent. This is the clear desire of my superiors and for this reason I consider what is happening ... almost against nature! A procedural error has been used as an excuse to attack the Institute, its president and, more generally, the Vatican.”

Why do you think someone wants to attack you or the Holy See?

“I think that the statement of the Secretariat of State and its sense of amazement shines through. .. [it happened] just when we are working as hard as possible to enforce rules against money laundering. Cardinal Bertone has appointed Cardinal Attilio Nicola, president of the supervisory board inside the Vatican, to monitor the implementation of all provisions for the White List. We are available to provide information, it would have been enough to ask us instead of slapping it on the front page.”


UPDATE: Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi made public the following letter which he wrote to the Financial Times and which was published in the newspaper today. The letter concerns recent events involving the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR).

  “Yesterday the IOR (Institute of Religious Works) returned to international media attention in the wake of a surprise investigation by the Procurator’s Office in Rome.

  “Given that the activities of the IOR take place at an international level, and that its President is a well respected figure, well-known in the world of international finance, it is appropriate that I, as the head of the Holy See’s Press Office, should seek to clarify matters in order to avoid the spread of inaccurate information and to ensure that no damage is caused to the activities of the Institute or the good name of its managers.

  “The IOR is not a bank in the normal definition of the term. It is an Institute that administers the assets of Catholic institutions; institutions whose goal is to further a religious and charitable apostolate at an international level. The IOR is located within the territory of Vatican City State; in other words, beyond the jurisdiction and surveillance of the various national banks.

  “Its particular status means that its position in the system and the regulations of international finance requires a series of agreements in order to establish the procedures necessary for the Holy See to be included in the White List - this is especially true in light of the new norms laid down by the European Union to combat terrorism and money laundering.

  “From the day of his appointment, and in accordance with the specific mandate he received from the highest Vatican authorities and from the IOR Inspection Committee, President Gotti Tedeschi has been working with great commitment to ensure the absolute transparency of the IOR’s activities, and their compliance for the norms and procedures which will allow the Holy See to be included in the White List. To this end, intense and fruitful contacts are ongoing with the Bank of Italy, the European Union and with the competent international bodies: OECD and GAFI.

  “It is for this reason that the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the official communiqué it released on Tuesday, expressed its perplexity and amazement at this investigation by the Procurator’s Office in Rome, which has come at a time in which this commitment is being clearly shown and these contacts are being made in order to reach lasting solutions as soon as possible.

  “The nature and aims of the transactions under investigation could have been clarified with great simplicity, being cash transactions the beneficiary of which is the Institute itself, on accounts it holds at other credit institutions. The current problem was caused by a misunderstanding (now being examined) between the IOR and the bank which received the transfer order.

  “Thus the Holy See reiterates its complete confidence in the managers of the IOR, and its desire for complete transparency in the financial operations the Institute undertakes, in accordance with the procedures and norms required today to ensure the security and transparency of transactions in the field of international finance”.