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Compliance News, EU/Europe

Vatican hosts European AML evaluators

By Dan Byrne

A two-week examination into some of the Vatican’s financial affairs began Wednesday amid claims that it has fallen short in detecting and countering money laundering within its borders.

Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (Moneyval) representatives arrived in the tiny microstate to begin a periodic evaluation into its AML practices, Crux reports.

Although planned as far back as 2019, the visit now comes amid a fresh financial scandal involving the Holy See’s investment in a London-based property venture.

An Italian businessman was arrested in connection with the case in June 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Pope Francis personally dismissed the high-profile Cardinal Angelo Becciu last week, who is alleged to have played a pivotal role in securing the deal.

Cardinal Becciu held the position of Substitute for General Affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State – a position not unlike a ‘chief of staff’ in other countries – from 2011 to 2018.

He is alleged to have invested more than €350 million of the Vatican’s money in the property scheme, most of it coming from donations.

The Vatican is an atypical political jurisdiction in that it is nominally an independent country, but it also functions as the head of a Christian church and lacks any permanent ‘birth-right’ citizens. 

Moneyval’s previous assessments of the Vatican have been mixed, and much criticism has been levelled at the fact that few cases of financial crime have been prosecuted despite the volume of suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed with its financial crime watchdog.

Indeed, nobody has yet been indicted in the London property case.

It submitted itself to Moneyval’s evaluation process in 2009 as part of an attempt to lose its reputation as a tax haven or a channel for dirty money, according to Crux.

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