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September 22, 2010
The investigation is the first into the Vatican bank since the early 1980s, when it was implicated in the collapse of an Italian bank whose chairman, nicknamed “God’s banker,” was mysteriously found dead, hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.
Italian authorities have historically shied away from investigating the Vatican’s finances — owing as much to a sense of deference to the church as to the complex relationship between Italy and the Holy See, a sovereign state.
“The era of omertà is over,” said Gianluigi Nuzzi, the author of the 2009 best seller “Vaticano S.p.A.,” using the Italian term for the code of silence. S.p.A. stands for joint-stock company in Italian.
The investigation was undertaken because of a new practice by the Bank of Italy. Aimed at preventing the financing of terrorist groups and money laundering, it requires all foreign banks operating in Italy, including the Vatican bank, to provide detailed information about the origins of the money they transfer.
Officials said Mr. Gotti Tedeschi and Mr. Cipriani were under investigation for having failed to adequately explain the origins of funds transferred from one account held by the Vatican bank to two others it holds. They said that the seizure of money was preventive and that neither man had been formally charged or placed under arrest. In the coming months, a judge is expected to rule on whether to proceed with the investigation.
The investigation could potentially blight the record of Mr. Gotti Tedeschi, a well-respected banker and a former head of operations in Italy for Banco Santander in Spain. He was brought in by the pope last year to help make the finances of the Vatican bank more open. The private bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works, manages funds aimed at charitable activities.
The new investigation appeared more mundane than the 1980s inquiry, but it appeared to be potentially no less explosive.
Officials said they had opened the investigation on Monday after the Bank of Italy, adhering to anti-money-laundering directives issued by the European Union, alerted them to two suspicious transfers on Sept. 6 from an account held by the Vatican bank at a Rome branch of Credito Artigiano S.p.A., a bank based in Northern Italy.
One transfer of $26 million was directed to an account held by the Vatican bank at a Frankfurt branch of the American bank J. P. Morgan, and a transfer of $4 million was directed to an account it held at a Rome branch of Banca del Fucino.
Magistrates in Rome opened the investigation because the account from which the funds were sent was in Rome.
Last year, the same magistrates opened up a broader investigation into Italian bank accounts thought to be receiving transfers from the Vatican bank.
In both cases, investigators bypassed the sovereignty of the Holy See by looking into Italian accounts that had received funds from the Vatican Bank.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
June 20, 2010
ROME - One of Italy's most prominent Catholic cardinals and a former minister have been put under investigation as a corruption scandal that has tainted the government spread to touch the Vatican.
Magistrates told Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe and Pietro Lunardi, former Infrastructure and Transport Minister in the center-right government, that they were being investigated for aggravated corruption, judicial sources said.
The magistrates in the central city of Perugia are investigating a web of corruption and favors involving public works contracts, mostly in construction for major events, such as last year's G8 summit and the Millennium celebrations.
Sepe, 67, is being investigated for alleged corruption when he was a Vatican official running the Congregation for Evangelisation of People, a cash-and-real-estate rich department of the Vatican that finances the work of missions abroad.
Sepe, who ran the department until he was moved to Naples in 2006, is suspected of aggravated corruption with Lunardi in connection with a real estate deal.
According to Italian newspapers La Stampa, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, in 2004 Lunardi purchased a building in Rome from Sepe's department at a price well below market value.
The next year, when Lunardi was minister, he approved a decree allocating funds for the restoration of historic church buildings, including the 16th century headquarters of the mission department facing Rome's Spanish Steps.
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