02 Dec 2019
An international network of financial watchdogs said the Vatican’s handling of confidential information posed “an evident security threat to our organization,” in a statement explaining why it suspended the Vatican from access to its information earlier this month.
The Egmont Group, a Toronto-based network of more than 160 national financial intelligence units around the world, suspended the Vatican watchdog’s access to its secure web system on Nov. 13, Egmont Chairman Mariano Federici told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
The suspension is a blow to the Vatican’s financial credibility under Pope Francis, and comes at a delicate moment, ahead of an on-site evaluation of the papal state early next year by the official pan-European money-laundering watchdog Moneyval.
Egmont members use the system to share information about money laundering, the financing of terrorism, tax fraud and other financial crimes.
The group’s confidence in the Vatican’s financial regulator, AIF, was shaken after Vatican police seized information from the regulator on Oct. 1 during an investigation of a financial scandal linked to a Holy See investment in London real estate.
“As a consequence of the search that took place in AIF’s offices, information provided by other [financial intelligence units] has been seized and there is no clarity about its status,” Mr. Federici said. “There is also no assurance that this situation will not happen again under the current state of affairs, and that further information won’t be seized.”
Mr. Federici said he has an “obligation to protect (Egmont’s) principal asset—information—from being used for different purposes than those for which they were provided by FIU members.”
The raid on AIF and a simultaneous raid on the Secretariat of State, the Holy See’s executive arm, took place after a complaint by the Vatican Bank, which had refused a request from the Secretariat of State for a loan of more than €100 million ($110 million) to finance the acquisition of a building in London’s costly Chelsea neighborhood, according to Vatican officials.
The Vatican Bank characterized the deal, which was cleared by AIF, as suspicious.
By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, 27 November 2019
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