Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vatican has started prosecuting financial crimes: watchdog chief

René Brülhart happy with progress The head of the Vatican's financial watchdog has revealed that the Holy See began pursuing prosecutions against people accused of financial crimes in 2016. 

In what may be seen as a breakthrough for Pope Francis's continuing reforms, the president of the Vatican's Financial Intelligence Authority said in an interview on January 10 that the first prosecutions had begun without public announcement in 2016 and would continue at a faster pace in 2017.

"The work there is increasing and we are definitely making progress on that end," said René Brülhart.

Lack of prosecutions against those accused of financial crimes has long been a concern of international experts who have examined the Vatican's financial system.

While the watchdog agency has released annual reports since 2012 detailing possible suspicious activity, for example marking 544 activities as questionable in 2015, there had been no prosecutions of those responsible.

A 2015 progress report by Moneyval, the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, widely praised progress the Vatican had made in clamping down on financial crimes but called on the city-state to "deliver effective results in terms of prosecutions".

Brü​lhart declined to give more information about the prosecutorial process, citing the fact that responsibility for criminal proceedings does not rest with his office but with that of the Promoter of Justice, the Vatican's chief prosecutor.

He expressed confidence in the reforms of the Vatican's financial system, which began under Pope Benedict XVI but have been continued and strengthened under Francis.

"The system is working now," said Brü​lhart, saying that the Vatican's financial institutions are now appropriately reporting suspicious activity to his agency, which is then passing on possible criminal cases to the Promoter, Gian Piero Milano.