Vatican efforts to crack down on money laundering

René Brülhart, President of AIF

 VATICAN CITY -- There has been an explosion of reports of suspicious financial activities at the Vatican.  In 2015 there were 544 reports, a tripling of figures from the 147 recorded in 2014, shown through the 2015 report by the Authority of Financial Information (AIF) of the Holy See, the fourth since Benedict XVI set up this body at the end 2010.

 The president and director of AIF, René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza respectively, have said that “the increase in reports of suspicious activity was not due to a greater number of potential illegal activities, but down to several factors, such as the conclusion of the closure procedure for relations that no longer conform to Vatican legislation, along with the policies adopted by the supervised entities; the monitoring of user activity within the framework of voluntary cooperation programs in fiscal matters that are undertaken by foreign states, as well as, in general, the strengthening of reporting systems and the growing awareness of the reporting requirements by supervised entities.”

 The report also showed an increase in precautionary measures taken by AIF over the past three years, with eight suspensions of transactions and four report blocks, compared to just three suspensions in 2014.  It also showed that by the conclusion of the revision process in October 2015 around 4,800 accounts had been closed.

 In most cases the theory in potential cases is of fraud and tax evasion, however there have been a series of more complex and structured offenses in the finance sector, such as the disturbance of the market in foreign countries, leading to an increase in the number of cases with bilateral cooperation between the AIF and the relevant foreign authorities.

 Crossing the border out of the Vatican, the number of cash declarations exceeding 10,000 euros has decreased steadily each year from 1,782 in 2012 to 1,111 in 2014 and then same in 2015.  Meanwhile the number of declarations for incoming cash has also dropped from 598 in 2012 to 367 in 2015.  The leaders of AIF explained, “This is due to an increased monitoring by the relevant authorities and the introduction of strengthened procedures for supervised entities.”  Di Ruzza said, “In the field of preventing and combating the financing of terrorism the AIF has strengthened its international activities, including the one with the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit), with the foreign states that are most at risk of terrorist attacks, which in 2015 also tragically touched many European regions.”