Vatican ‘astonished’ by inquiry into its bank

The Vatican on Tuesday said it was “perplexed and astonished” after Rome prosecutors placed the head of its bank under investigation for violating money-laundering legislation.

“The Holy See wants to express the maximum confidence in the president and the chief executive” of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), the bank’s official name, the Vatican said in a statement.

Both president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and chief executive Paolo Cipriani are accused of violating legislation that requires banks to disclose information on financial operations.

The Vatican said it was committed to transparency and that information on these operations was already in the hands of the Bank of Italy.

Financial police also seized €23-million temporarily from the IOR’s account in another bank, Credito Artigiano, ANSA said.

The IOR manages bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations and benefits from Vatican offshore status.

In September 2009 the IOR nominated Gotti Tedeschi, Spanish banking giant Santander’s representative in Italy, as its new head.

The appointment was greeted at the time as a move towards greater transparency at the IOR.

US archbishop Paul Marcinkus headed the bank from 1971 to 1989 when it was caught up in scandals including the collapse of the private Italian bank, Banco Ambrosiano in 1982 amid accusations of links to organised crime and political “terrorism”. — AFP

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