ROME (Reuters) - A senior official of the Vatican's bank denied on Sunday a reports that prominent Italian lay clients including politicians held secret numbered accounts at the institution, which is caught up in a money laundering investigation.
The Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) has been in the spotlight since 2010 when Italian investigators froze 23 million euros ($28.75 million) of its funds in Italian banks as part of their inquiry.
In a newspaper interview published on Sunday, IOR's Director General Paolo Cipriani denied allegations which have surfaced since its president was abruptly ousted.
"There are no numbered accounts or accounts of politicians," Cipriani told Corriere della Sera. "The only non-clergy Italians that hold accounts are employees or pensioners of the Holy See."
IOR President Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was dismissed last month after the board passed a motion of no-confidence, accusing him of neglecting his basic management responsibilities.
Gotti Tedeschi's abrupt departure, which followed the arrest of the pope's butler for allegedly stealing confidential papal documents, was the culmination of a leaks scandal that has shaken the Vatican since January.
Italian police searching Gotti Tedeschi's home and office this week found a confidential dossier relating to his three-year tenure, a judicial source told Reuters.
Corriere della Sera reported on Saturday that in his dossier Gotti Tedeschi said he had met resistance from other bank executives when he asked for details of secret accounts held by non-clergy such as Italian politicians and other state workers.
Cipriani defended the bank's transparency record and said each of its accounts was linked to profiles of the holder which were more detailed than those of Italian banks.
Gotti Tedeschi told Reuters after his dismissal that he had paid for his efforts to improve transparency and make IOR comply with international anti-money-laundering standards. The Vatican has denied this, saying he was ineffective, divisive, and an obstacle to transparency.
Reporting by Catherine Hornby; editing by David Stamp