, VATICAN CITY, Holy See, Apr 28 – A clean-up of the Vatican bank has been completed, with the final tally of suspect accounts that had to be closed nearing 5,000, the Holy See’s financial watchdog said Thursday.
Unveiling the 2015 annual report of the Financial Information Authority (FIA), its director Tommaso Di Ruzza said a three-year examination of the scandal-hit Institute of Religious Works (IOR), as the bank is officially known, was now finished.
“We took a very strict line towards any accounts that were not in compliance (with Vatican legislation) and now finally the process of closures is done,” Di Ruzza told a Vatican press conference. “A total of 4,935 were closed and that is a final figure.”
The FIA was established in 2010 by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI to bring the Vatican’s financial institutions into line with international standards designed to reduce the risk of accounts being used for nefarious purposes.
IOR account holders in the past have included mafia figures and it became notorious around the world because of a 1980s scandal centred on the death of banker Roberto Calvi, whose corpse was discovered hanging under Blackfriars bridge in London.
At the same time as it established the FIA, the Vatican signed up for external evaluation by Moneyval, a European body that combats money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Moneyval reported in December that the Vatican had addressed most of its structural weaknesses.
But it also questioned why no indictments or prosecutions had ensued as a result of the evidence of wrongdoing gathered and handed to prosecutors.
In its latest report, FIA said it had been alerted to 544 suspicious transactions last year, mainly involving possible tax evasion.
That was more than three times the number registered in 2014 (147) but FIA President Rene Brulhart said the spike was likely as a result of more zealous monitoring.