Vatican financial investigator says laws, roles will be strengthened

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The director of the Vatican's Financial Intelligence Authority (pictured) said the Vatican will further amend its finance-related laws in the coming months, increase screening of account holders at the Vatican bank and continue assessing the potential risk that accounts could be used for money laundering and the financing of terrorism, reports the Catholic News Service.

Rene Brulhart, the Swiss finance lawyer hired to monitor the legality and transparency of Vatican financial activity, presented his office's first report at a May 22 news conference.

The Vatican has "a very clear, strong commitment to fight money laundering and terrorism financing fully in line with its moral values, but also with its responsibility to become a credible partner in the international environment," he told reporters.

He said that in 2012, he received six reports of suspicious financial activities from Vatican offices and, after studying the cases, he forwarded two of the reports to the Vatican criminal court for further investigation and possible prosecution. It is up to the Vatican prosecutor to release information about the cases, which could involve money laundering, Brulhart said.

The fact that five suspicious activity reports were submitted in 2011, six in 2012 and more than that in the first quarter of 2013 prove that the Institute for the Works of Religion -- the so-called Vatican bank -- and other Vatican offices are committed to greater transparency and stringency and are learning to implement the stricter laws governing financial transactions enacted by the Vatican since 2010, he said.

"Filing a suspicious transaction report is not a bad thing," he said; it simply signals to Brulhart and his investigators the fact that a transaction has "deviated from the ordinary behavior" of a particular Vatican bank account holder or a person or company with whom a Vatican office does business.

FULL STORY Vatican financial investigator says laws, roles will be strengthened (CNS)