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Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit Nets Suspicious Activity (1969)

The Financial Information Authority was set up to help combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

05/23/2013 Comment
Estefania Aguirre/CNA

Rene Brulhart, director of the Vatican Financial Information Authority, speaks to the press about the Vatican's finances on May 22.

– Estefania Aguirre/CNA

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican revealed that its enhanced procedures have enabled it to flag more suspicious transactions in 2012 than it did in 2011.

“I’m not saying that everything is great and perfect, but that a lot of progress has been made in the last two years,” said Rene Brülhart, director of the Financial Information Authority, at the Vatican Press Office.

“It’s important that we’re setting a system here to protect the Holy See,” he added.

The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority made the statistics public at a May 22 press conference, where it made its first-ever annual report available.

The report shows that in 2012 there were six reports of suspicious activity, versus one in 2011.

Brülhart said this proves that his department and its system, which became operational in April 2011, are working well.

The director explained that the six suspicious transactions involved sums of money greater than 10,000 euros ($13,000), but he would not provide additional details.

He also revealed that the Financial Authority asked the Promoter of Justice’s office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study two of the cases and said that they could be related to money laundering.

He stressed that international cooperation to help combat money laundering was “absolutely key and crucial” and that the Vatican is “a key player in global fight of money laundering.”

The Financial Information Authority was set up to help combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism; the Vatican hired Brülhart as its director just a few months ago.

According to the Swiss native, combating money laundering in the Vatican began back in 2010, after Pope Benedict XVI released a motu proprio (of his own accord) that laid out the procedures.

“There’s no financial sector in the Vatican, no stock exchange, so it’s a completely different environment,” Brülhart said.

He noted that his office has two functions: to work as an intelligence unit and to supervise the so-called Vatican Bank, which is officially called the Institute for Works of Religion.

The Vatican Bank also recently received a new president, Ernst von Freyberg, who announced May 13 that it will make its annual report public and launch a website to better inform the public about its mission.

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