It was expected, with some concern, as if it were the grade of maturity. The Vatican was promoted by Moneyval, the Council of Europe body responsible for anti-money laundering and terrorist financing policies. But the financial scandal that overwhelmed the Secretariat of State in the final evaluation.

The Vatican rises in the ranking of virtuous countries in anti-money laundering

The judgment is important because it is aimed at the effectiveness of anti-money laundering safeguards and no longer – as in previous years – the adaptation of laws to international standards. The evaluation is positive, five years after the last visit of the inspectors inside the Leonine Walls, it allows the Vatican to rise in the ranking of the countries best equipped against money laundering and terrorist financing. Not for nothing, from now on it will be subjected to “ordinary” monitoring like the most virtuous states. But there is precisely the crux of the opaque management – and for the Vatican magistrates, criminal – of the Pence of St. Peter and of the reserved funds, with the hypothesis of the crime of money laundering, self-laundering, embezzlement, embezzlement against “insiders” – This is how Moneyval sums them up – that is, the middle and high-level figures, prelates and laity, who work for the Vatican institutions.

The insiders involved in the Vatican investigation: Becciu, Perlasca, Tirabassi

This was well understood with the scandal of the management of the funds of the Secretariat of State to which, however, Pope Francis responded with a squeeze on financial controls. which presumably allowed the Holy See to achieve “sufficiency” in some sectors such as the insiders. The report does not mention names but it is not difficult to read against the light those of Cardinal Angelo Giovanni Becciu (former substitute for the Secretariat, or number three of the Vatican), Monsignor Alberto Perlasca (for years at the head of the office that managed financial investments) and Fabrizio Tirabassi, the highest-ranking lay official in the office headed by Perlasca.

From Sloane Avenue to the Centurio fund in Cecilia Marogna

The scandal of the 200 million dollars in the Sloane Avenue building, the purchases of apartments in Cadogan Square in London, the investments in the Maltese Centurion fund of the Vatican manager Enrico Crasso, the payment of 15 million euros to the broker weighs heavily in Moneyval’s analysis Gianluigi Torzi by the new substitute Edgar Pena Parra, of the half million euros paid in Slovenia to the self-styled intelligence expert Cecilia Marogna at the request of Cardinal Becciu.

We need real magistrates, not lawyers in the Vatican

There is still room for improvement – says Moneyval – the perception of the risks of the crimes that insiders can commit and the “reputational risks” to which the Vatican is exposed have not been assessed. And there is a strong call to strengthen the judiciary system, in particular the investigating office of the Promoter of Justice: the inspectors report the potential risks of conflicts of interest for magistrates “who exercise legal activity in a foreign jurisdiction”, such as this is the case (but no name is given) of Alessandro Diddi, owner of the investigation into the London palace and criminal lawyer in Italy.

The satisfaction of the Holy See

“The Holy See welcomes with satisfaction the Moneyval report published today and the encouragement to continue on the path taken”, is written in a statement. “With the recognition of the effectiveness of the measures adopted by all the bodies involved in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism – the statement continues – the authorities of the Holy See assure their commitment to continue the path of full compliance with the best international parameters and, to this end, they will carefully evaluate the recommendations contained in the report ».

Barbagallo (Asif): it is a positive judgment, proud of the work done

“The opinion expressed is positive on all fronts, even the hottest ones, we are happy and proud of the work done”, says Carmelo Barbagallo, president of Asif – the Vatican financial supervisory and information authority – and former head of Supervision at the Bank of Italy, who was the head of delegation in discussions with Moneyval. The evaluations – he explains – were expressed on eleven aspects, relating to the effectiveness of the actions implemented by the Vatican. Result: five judgments of “substantial” and six “moderate” efficacy on a scale that, on the up, predicts; low, moderate, substantial, high. It is a glass half full, for Barbagallo. “If you look at comparable evaluations for some profiles, such as vigilance or prevention, only a few countries out of 110 evaluated in the last round have the judgment of substantial effectiveness”. At international level, out of 110 countries evaluated by Moneyval in the last round, the Vatican is in the top 20. Italy is definitely better positioned with 8 level 2 (substantial effectiveness) and 3 level 3 (moderate).

Well the IOR and counter-terrorism. We can improve on the insiders

Among the positive judgments there are those on the IOR, by now a body supervised and adapted to the most advanced anti-money laundering regulations and practices, in international cooperation and in the fight against terrorism. A half-empty glass analysis, however, sees that the IOR is the only supervised body, so the complexity is minimal; It is also true that the Vatican is among the top 20 countries (but only out of 110 analyzed so far) but it should be a starting point, even more so if we consider that Italy, for example, is much better positioned.

On the insiders, “the issue that Moneyval raises – affirms the president of Asif – is not that the Vatican has dealt badly with the issue, far from it; indeed it starts from the fact that a “red flag” has been placed on these risks, and this can be seen from the investigations. Instead, he says that we have not adequately articulated the analysis of this issue in our overall risk assessment. In short, according to them, we should analyze the insider risk in terms of people rather than crimes. In this sense, the launch of the procurement code, for example, has lowered the risk of insiders ”, explains Barbagallo.

The recall on the judiciary

The strongest appeal of Moneyval, however, is that of the judiciary: European inspectors need magistrates hired full-time, experts in financial crimes and who work only for the Vatican. The skills of the resources in the economic-financial unit of the Gendarmerie Corps should also be strengthened. «They recognize that there has been progress», Barbagallo comments, «and they also acknowledge the merit of a series of important investigations that have been conducted. Obviously they say that a full figure is better than part time and that the risks of conflicts of interest must be avoided; but it is an abstract judgment, not a concrete one. Also I point out that we are going in that direction, some assumptions have been made. However, the judgment is favorable: the recommendations are of an operational nature such as the introduction of manuals, protocols, performance indicators. If compared internationally, it is therefore a good evaluation ».

Too long investigations and few trials

At the same time the report highlights that the duration of the investigation is somewhat long. Those on the Secretariat of State, launched in the summer of 2019 following a complaint by the director of the IOR, Gianfranco Mammì and the auditor general Alessandro Cassinis Righini, are not yet closed, even if the end of the investigation is given as imminent: “Yes, it is true », Barbagallo admits,« the investigations last a long time but Moneyval also recognizes that the Vatican is a small country that very often depends on others to which it has to make requests. They say that there have been no convictions for financial crimes: but I underline – continues Barbagallo – that the Caloia sentence (i.e. the sentence of 8 years and 11 months for the former president of the IOR, Angelo Caloia and the lawyer Gabriele Liuzzo, and 5 years and 2 months to Liuzzo’s son, Lamberto, for various reasons for embezzlement and money laundering, ed) was issued after the conclusion of the inspection. If the Caloia sentence were valued, the evaluation would have remained the same but perhaps there would be fewer observations on the dissuasiveness and proportionality of the sentences. To conclude, I can say that Moneyval’s judgment was a well-deserved success ».

June 9, 2021 (change June 9, 2021 | 18:06)


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