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Vatican boosts its financial investigation unit

Member: Nifa

The Vatican has been praised by Council of Europe experts for its updated legislation against money laundering and its vigilance in flagging suspected cases.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (Moneyval) has released a progress report on the Vatican’s efforts. It commended certain actions but warned that the effectiveness of these efforts cannot be proven until Vatican courts actually prosecute someone for a crime.

As the report notes, although the Vatican court had frozen the assets of several accounts at the Vatican bank, “the Holy See had still not brought a money-laundering case to court”. Moneyval said the Financial Information Authority’s 2016 report indicated that the main offences suspected in Vatican bank accounts it flagged for investigation involved suspected “fraud, serious tax evasion, misappropriation and corruption”.

The Vatican responded by saying it is “committed to taking the necessary actions in the relevant areas to further strengthen its efforts to combat and prevent financial crimes”. It added that it has created a specialised Economic Financial Crimes Investigation Unit within the Corps of the Gendarmerie and the appointment of a specialised assistant promoter of justice. Two full-time officers have been hired for the new unit, both of whom are “fully trained in modern financial investigation techniques”, such as those used by forensic accountants.

As with any investigation in the offences listed above, the officers will follow the money trail, both through examination of accounts and cash withdrawals and by careful analysis of other documentation, such as phone records, emails and interviews.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 22 December 2017

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