.- The European body responsible for monitoring financial transparency issued a report Dec. 12 detailing the progress made by the Vatican's financial bodies.
The Council of Europe’s Moneyval committee published the report as a follow up to their July report, which had found the Vatican to be “compliant” or “largely compliant” on nine of the 16 “key and core” recommendations for combating terrorist financing and money-laundering.
According to the progress report “it is clear … that much work has been done in a short time to meet most of the Moneyval technical recommendations.”
Such progress reports are part of the standard procedure in Moneyval investigations. The Vatican's was prepared at the committee's Dec. 9-13 plenary assembly. Progress reports will now be prepared every two years, but the Holy See has offered to provide an update prior to Dec. 2015.
The choice of the Holy See to report on its progress whenever requested can be considered a clear signal that the Vatican is carrying forward its commitment to financial transparency.
Moneyval's progress report also traces the history of Vatican anti-money laundering laws, highlighting milestones, beginning with the initial law, which was issued at the end of 2010.That law was then revised early in 2012 following Nov. 2011 visit from Moneyval which noted deficiencies.
International cooperation was reinforced with a Dec. 2012 amendment to the law, and in Oct. 2013, Law XVIII was adopted, which re-wrote and strengthened the Vatican's anti-money laundering legislation. Also this year, the position of the Vatican's financial overseer, the Financial Information Authority, was strengthened under Pope Francis.
The progress report says that Vatican’s new legal structures for combatting money-laundering and other financial crimes was “much improved,” but still needed to be tested in practice.
It also praised “wide ranging” measures to “rectify deficiencies in all areas.”
The progress report also noted a surge in the filing reports of possible suspicious transactions. John Ringguth, Moneyval's executive secretary, maintained that “data about the suspicious transactions report” and “the current investigations” in the Vatican that led to a seizure of funds “prove that the Vatican takes seriously the combating of money-laundering.”
The suspicious transactions reports are expected to reach 150 by the end of this year, compared to only six in 2012.
The report also stressed that “Vatican City State requested mutual legal assistance on a domestic case.” According to a Vatican source who spoke to CNA Dec. 12, this passage refers to the request submitted by Vatican authorities to Italy in the case of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former official of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See who was arrested by Italian police last June and is now undergoing a trial in Italy for alleged money smuggling.
The progress report also underscored that it was “somewhat surprising” that there had not yet been formal inspection by the Financial Information Authority of the Vatican's two financial institutions, the Institute for Religious Works, or “Vatican bank”, and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
The report also stressed that “the new professional structure” of the Financial Information Authority, set out in its revised statutes, “will need supplementing with more trained and experienced … staff to handle the full range of its functions.”
René Bruelhart, director of the Vatican financial watchdog, told L’Osservatore Romano Dec. 12 that “since the authority now also functions as a prudential supervisor,” there is need of additional staff and that the body will soon be hiring more regulators.
Overall, Moneyval indicated that the Vatican's existing anti-money laundering laws are effective and deterrent, reassuring foreign counterparts that the Holy See is committed to ending money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.