Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vatican bank accused of laundering

The Vatican is facing some awkward questions after an investigation was launched into its alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme.

The financial scandal was triggered by a report in an Italian magazine that claimed the Vatican bank laundered some $200 million.

The alleged secrets of the Vatican have often provided rich material for fictional works, such as blockbuster film Angels and Demons, but the Holy See now has to deal with a case equally shrouded in mystery.

The Vatican Bank has been accused of laundering $200 million through the accounts of Italy’s UniCredit Bank, one of the world's largest financial institutions.

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An investigation into the case became public after Italian magazine Panorama published details from tax police and prosecutors.

“This corruption is continuing on a regular basis in the Vatican,” claimed lawyer Janathan Levy. “Again, there’s no reason for a religion to have a bank that does worldwide commercial activities, dealing in gold, dealing in insurance, dealing in property and then hiding behind the Roman Catholic Church.”

The London Telegraph recently reported that the Vatican Bank is the eighth most popular destination for laundered money, ahead of the Bahamas, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The reason for this is that you cannot trace any movement of cash within the bank.

“I had the privilege to walk inside this bank. It’s nothing like a bank,” shared lawyer Massimiliano Gabrieli. “If you go there you deposit or withdraw money without limit, without any kind of receipt for the bank and for the client. All you have is a single card with a number.”

A lawyer representing the Vatican dismissed the allegations that it is some sort of clandestine organization where accounts are not kept.

Jeffrey S. Lena, lawyer for the Institute for Religious Works, said that “This is all part of a generalized attack on the Catholic Church from the position of the Orthodox Christians, based upon a theory of Catholic hegemony in the Eastern part of Europe. Some are using legal cases against the Vatican to pursue a political agenda”.

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