Thursday, February 02, 2012

Vatican Bank IOR: there is no real wish for transparency

Vatican Bank IOR: there is no real wish for transparency  -- Vatican Insider
" A newspaper has published a confidential memo on relations between the Vatican Bank and the new internal surveillance Authority, concluding that there is no real wish for transparency. But this is not the case.

Last 31 January, Italian daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano published the content of a confidential internal memo regarding the interpretation of the transparency law introduced by the Holy See at the instigation of Pope Benedict XVI and his Secretary of State, in 2011. The document which was partially reproduced from the original, includes some hand written annotations which the Italian newspaper presumed were written by Fr. Georg Gänswein, the Pope private secretary.

The document entitled “Memo on the IOR-AIF reports”, is defined as “confidential” and according to the newspaper “was written by a “high ranking figure who can afford to allow Vatican leaders to analyse the document.” According to Il Fatto Quotidiano the memo is supposed to prove that in spite of their public declarations regarding transparency, Vatican high authorities have agreed not to collaborate with the Italian justice system on what had been going on in the IOR up until April 2011. That is, the enforcement of new regulations which would involve the Holy See being placed on the “white list” of virtuous States engaged in the crackdown against money laundering.

The memo says that the AIF, the Vatican Financial Information Authority led by Cardinal Attilio Nicora (who is in charge of monitoring the implementation of new international regulations on transparency), forwarded “some requests for information on open funds at the Institute, in which the latter invested, allowing the release of funds that had been seized by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome (…) to the IOR, the Vatican Bank which is directed by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. “Lately however, the Institute’s management said it had checked the requests sent by the AIF – regarding operations that were suspicious or for which judicial proceedings were in place - providing information related exclusively to operations carried out from 1 April 2011 onwards.” The alleged reason for which this step was taken, is the opinion given by the lawyer Michele Briamonte (of the Grande Stevens legal firm, Ed.), “on the basis of the general legal principle of non retroactivity, according to which the measures introduced by the anti-money laundering law (…) are only valid in the future.”

The law on transparency that was implemented about a month ago, is therefore not supposed to have any retroactive value, preventing any responses being made to potential requests regarding previous situations. However, Vatican Insider has learnt that the memo in question is not a definitive document and the opinion offered by Briamonte was apparently not used as a criterion in the end. The handwritten annotations - which were not in fact made by Benedict XVI’s secretary – mention that the memo was discussed with Cardinal Bertone, who “agreed” with the points made by its author. That is to say he is favourable to a greater openness towards the Financial Information Authority.

The willingness shown by the Pope and particularly Cardinal Bertone – whose name appeared in the annotations – to cooperate, is believed to have led to the IOR’s decision not to hide behind the non retroactivity of the regulations on transparency. Basically, the memo seems to represent a transitional, not a definitive step, in an ongoing discussion process during which all the different opinions were being examined. That of Mr. Briamonte was only one of four opinions requested on the matter, both inside and outside the Vatican. At the end of the discussions and the after a joint assessment was made, the final decision taken by Vatican authorities is the exact opposite to that which is currently being attributed to the Holy See. That is, that the IOR will, on certain conditions respond, to requests made by the Vatican Financial Information Authority, even if said requests relate to a time before the enforcement of the new regulations."

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