Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pope's Bank Accused Of Fiddling The Books

Locked in the vaults and protected by the Vatican walls is God's designated bank, the l'Istituto per le Opere di Religione.  
Since 1942 money from Catholic churches around the world have used the Pope's bank to transfer funds. 
This week The Independent published documents alleging that the bank had failed to account for 20 million Euros destined in part for Germany and the rest to another Italian Bank.
It's not the only instance which has come before the courts.  
In October the Sicily Police uncovered what is believed to have been a transaction involving a Catholic priest who's Uncle has been convicted of crimes associated with the Mafia.  
Police have asked for a legal explanation for 250 000 euro, allegedly illegally obtained from a regional government.
In both cases the Vatican, while considered a separate state has agreed to comply with financial regulations established the European Union. 
This includes disclosing the source of funds which in both cases the Vatican is alleged to have failed to comply with.
The wealth of the Catholic bank is hard to establish, but some put the figure as high as 2 billion Euros.  
With such significant resources and guided by the ethical concerns of the church most would consider the institution would be above reproach.
Yet, historically the bank has been in hot water on a number of occasions.   
Formed in 1942 the bank is alleged by Holocaust survivors, Russians, Croatian citizens and Roma to have profited from their being detained as well as containing and concealing assets obtained by the Nazi's during the war.
In 1982, no less than the head of the Vatican Bank, Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, was indited as an accessory for the 3.5 billion collapse of the Italian Bank Banco Ambrosiano.  
The investigation could not overcome the stumbling block when the Italian courts ruled that employees of the Vatican could not be prosecuted, given the special status of being an independent State within Italy.
In the current scandal to hit the Vatican prosecution documents obtained by the Independent state that the actions of the Bank were "with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital".
Where the case will end up, God knows!