“In the year under review, the staffing level, which was insufficient at the start of the year, increased significantly from 9 to 13 full-time employees, a number more in line with the authority’s workload.”
The new report noted that Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, carried out an on-site inspection of the Vatican in October 2020.
ASIF said that the latest Moneyval report, issued in June, gave the Vatican good effectiveness ratings. It presented charts suggesting that the Holy See/Vatican City State compared favorably with other jurisdictions in terms of its effectiveness in preventing and countering money laundering and terrorist financing.
“As a result of the assessment, the jurisdiction was placed in regular follow-up at the Moneyval Plenary, an outcome enjoyed by a limited number of countries, meaning that the next technical compliance assessment will take place in three years, and the next effectiveness assessment, with related on-site visit, in five years,” the report said.
The approval of ASIF’s new statutes in December marked the end of a turbulent year for the agency. At the start of 2020, the authority was still suspended from the Egmont Group, through which 164 financial intelligence authorities worldwide share information and coordinate their work.
The agency was suspended from the group on Nov. 13, 2019, after Vatican gendarmes raided the offices of the Secretariat of State and the AIF. This was followed by the abrupt resignation of René Brülhart, the body’s high-profile president, and the appointment of Carmelo Barbagallo as his replacement.
Two prominent figures, Marc Odendall and Juan Zarate, then resigned from the AIF’s board of directors. Odendall said at the time that the AIF had been effectively rendered “an empty shell” and that there was “no point” remaining involved in its work.
The Egmont Group reinstated the AIF on Jan. 22, 2020. In April, Schlitzer was appointed director of the agency, succeeding Tommaso Di Ruzza, one of five officials suspended after the raid.
During an inflight press conference in November 2019, Pope Francis criticized the AIF under Di Ruzza, saying that “it was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence.”
The Vatican announced earlier this month that Brülhart and Di Ruzza were among 10 people facing trial over allegations of financial impropriety.
Vatican prosecutors charged Di Ruzza with embezzlement, abuse of office, and violation of confidentiality, and Brülhart with abuse of office.
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Di Ruzza has asserted his innocence of the charges, as has Brülhart, who said that the trial would show “the truth about my innocence.”