Spike in shady deal reports at Vatican bank

The Vatican bank's stepped-up internal monitoring has led to a sharp rise in suspicious transaction reports - from just six in 2012 to 202 in 2013 and collaboration with foreign financial authorities has increased sharply.

Spike in shady deal reports at Vatican bank
The Vatican bank has 18,900 customers in 2012 and €6.3 billion in client assets. Vatican photo: Shutterstock

"It means that the reporting system starts working, is working," Rene Bruelhart, director of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority (AIF), a supervisory body, said as he presented its 2013 report on Monday.

The agency said that there had been a "notable" rise in reported shady deals at the bank, the Institute for Religious Works or IOR, and that it had so far passed on five requests for further investigation by Vatican justice. In 2011, just one suspicious transaction was reported.

The AIF said that the number of requests for information it had received from foreign authorities had also increased to 28 from just one in 2012 and the number of similar requests it received were 53 in 2013 compared to three in 2012.

"This increase is also due to international cooperation fostered by a series of bilateral agreements we have concluded," Bruelhart said in a statement.

The number of cash withdrawals above €10,000 fell to 1,557 in 2013 from 1,782 in 2012 and there were 550 declarations for cash deposits above that amount compared to 598 in 2012.

SEE ALSO: Vatican bank is 'on right track' in fighting fraud

The IOR handles accounts for Vatican departments and employees, as well as for religious orders and diplomats to the Holy See. It has launched a series of reforms for transparency and is closing down suspicious accounts.

The IOR said on its website it had 18,900 customers in 2012 and €6.3 billion in client assets.

Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who helped Liechtenstein shed its shady image, was named as Vatican bank supervisor in 2012 and a law adopted in 2013 bolstered his Authority's role.

A former senior Vatican accountant currently on trial for money laundering is accused of moving money through Vatican bank accounts in the past to avoid paying taxes.

Two former Vatican bank directors are also facing trial for money laundering in Italy.

READ MORE: Ex-Vatican bank chiefs in money laundering trial

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.