* Most suspicious transactions involved Vatican Bank
* Bank has been undergoing reform process, closing accounts
* Five suspicious transactions referred to Vatican
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, May 19 Reports of suspicious
financial transactions at the Vatican leapt to 202 in 2013 from
six the previous year, its Financial Information Authority (AIF)
said on Monday, attributing the rise to keener vigilance
prompted by reforms at the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank.
Since 2010, the Vatican has been enacting new legislation to
bring its bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), in
line with international standards on financial transparency
The AIF said the bulk of the Suspicious Transaction Reports
(STR) it had received involved the bank, but declined to give
specific numbers or percentages. Only five were considered
serious enough to be referred to the Vatican's prosecutor.
"We are not perfect yet, we are not super-good yet," Rene
Bruelhart, the Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF, told a news
conference. "We are more than satisfied that the direction we
are going is good but there is still quite a bit of way to go".
A report last December by Moneyval, a monitoring committee
of the Council of Europe, said the Vatican had enacted
significant reforms but must still exercise more oversight over
Bruelhart said his department had carried out an on-site
inspection of the IOR this year to make sure that anti-money
laundering procedures had taken root.
Pope Francis, who has said Vatican finances must be
transparent in order for the Church to have credibility, decided
against closing the IOR on condition that reforms continued.
Bruelhart said the bank had made "substantial progress" in
investigating client relationships and closing the accounts of
clients who were not entitled to them.
Only Vatican employees, religious institutions, orders of
priests and nuns and Catholic charities are allowed to have
accounts at the bank. But investigators have found that a number
were being used by outsiders or that legitimate account holders
were handling money for third parties.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former senior Vatican accountant
who had close ties to the IOR, is currently on trial accused of
plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from
Switzerland in a scheme to help rich friends avoid taxes.
Scarano has also been indicted on separate charges of
laundering millions of euros through the IOR. Paolo Cipriani and
Massimo Tulli, the IOR's director and deputy director, who
resigned last July after Scarano's arrest, have been ordered to
stand trial on charges of violating anti-money laundering norms.
Bruelhart said the AIF had opened an "autonomous
investigation" of the case and was cooperating with Italian
Of the 202 reports of suspicious transactions passed to the
AIF, Bruelhart said many "did not have enough meat on the bone"
to continue being scrutinised and others were still being
Bruelhart said the Vatican was increasing its cooperation
with other countries, notably on fighting money laundering.
He said the AIF had made 28 requests to foreign authorities
for information on suspected financial crime in 2013, up from
only one in 2012, and had itself received 53 such requests, up
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)