VATICAN CITY – The Vatican bank has taken steps to satisfy tough EU and international norms on money laundering and terror financing after being confronted with an unprecedented crackdown by Italian prosecutors.

In recent weeks, the bank has made written and in-person pledges to pass anti-money laundering legislation, report and investigate suspicious transactions, identify customers to law enforcement and create a special compliance authority.

Prosecutors, though, claim that even as the bank was making such overtures, it broke the law by trying to transfer money without identifying the sender or recipient, or what the money was being used for.

Italian prosecutors have placed bank chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his deputy Paolo Cipriani under investigation and financial police seized $30 million from a Vatican bank account on Sept. 21.

The Vatican has reacted furiously, insisting that the omission of data was just a “misunderstanding” that could be easily clarified. It tried to get the seizure lifted, but the court refused.

Now the Vatican has finally given its commitments to some of the key institutions involved in the fight against money laundering, officials at the institutions said.


Vatican bank officials in recent weeks made a written commitment to the Financial Action Task Force — the Paris-based policymaking body that develops anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing legislation — to do whatever is necessary to come into compliance with its norms, a senior task force official familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

The task force requires the Vatican to pass legislation making money-laundering a crime; to establish an entity to report suspicious transactions and then investigate them; and to pass legislation requiring that the bank identify its customers properly and make that information available to law enforcement agencies, the official said.

Separately, on Oct. 15, Vatican bank officials met with European Commission officials and agreed that Pope Benedict XVI would act to bring into Vatican law EU directives on money laundering that are required of euro-zone countries, said Amadeu Altafaj i Tardio, spokesman for Olli Rehn, European commissioner for economic and Monetary affairs.

The bank also pledged to establish a compliance “authority” headed by a senior Vatican cardinal on Jan. 1 to implement the anti-money laundering legislation, he said. The authority will be the contact for all EU and international agencies working to fight money laundering.

Vatican bank officials also had two meetings starting this spring with officials from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to learn how to get on the “white list” of countries that share tax information to crack down on tax havens, said Jeffrey Owens, head of tax issues at the OECD.

To join the OECD’s club, the Vatican must first make a formal commitment to transparency and exchange of financial information and then take part in peer review sessions. To get on the “white list,” the Vatican must enter into tax information sharing agreements with at least 12 other countries — a process that can often take years.

“The next stage is: They know what the standards are. Do they want to advance the dialogue with the aim of committing to the standards?” Owens said.

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