Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
A mysterious firing and a new report on the Vatican’s creative bookkeeping begs the question: Why does no one ever get in trouble for laundering money at the Holy See?
Barbie Latza Nadeau
12.12.17 1:06 PM ET
ROME—In 2015, the Council of Europe’s financial-evaluation arm Moneyval laid down the law for the Vatican Bank, telling the rather unholy financiers who had been accused of abetting money laundering for years that it isn’t enough to just smoke out suspicious account holders and freeze assets. Instead they said the Vatican Bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, needed to start actually prosecuting criminal cases.
Two years later, thousands of accounts have been closed or frozen, but Moneyval still isn’t happy. According to its 209-page December 2017 progress report, the Vatican gets good marks for not funding terrorism and for flagging potential illegal behavior. But the holy bank fails once again to actually hold anyone accountable for what are clearly crimes such as “fraud, including serious tax evasion, misappropriation and corruption,” according to the report.
More curious still, a week before the highly anticipated report was released, the IOR Deputy Director Giulio Mattietti was fired with no advance warning and escorted from his office out of fear he might remove files from his desk.
Mattietti was hired in 2007 by Paolo Cipriani, the former head of the bank who resigned under pressure a few months after Pope Francis was elected in 2013, after a Vatican accountant nicknamed “Monsignor 500” for his penchant for 500-euro notes, was arrested for trying to smuggle $26 million to Switzerland. Mattietti’s removal followed the sacking of a lower-level IOR employee days earlier. The Vatican gives no official reason for either of the firings beyond “reforms,” but a source close to the bank says the bank employees who were let go may have been whistleblowers who were alerting officials outside the bank about continuing impropriety.
In fact, despite apparently precise record keeping on the part of IOR, Moneyval evaluators still found 69 actions involving 38 customers that were not in accordance with money laundering and fraud standards set forth by the Council of Europe. None of those suspect cases were prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law, and instead Moneyval investigators point to vague records that imply that the cases were closed.
“Eight money-laundering investigations have been closed formally without any charges, while six additional investigations have been concluded without an indictment for any offense and their formal closure has been requested,” the report states.
And that is a problem.