* Vatican added for first time to State Department list
* Washington puts tiny state in less vulnerable list
* Vatican tries to join Europe's 'White List'
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, March 8 The Vatican has for
the first time appeared on the U.S. State Department's list of
money-laundering centres but the tiny city-state is not rated as
a high-risk country.
The 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report was
made public on Wednesday and Washington's list of 190 countries
classifies them in three categories: of primary concern, of
concern and monitored.
The Vatican is in the second category, grouped with 67 other
nations including Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary and Chile.
It was added to the list because it was considered
vulnerable to money-laundering and had recently established
programmes to prevent it, a State Department official said.
"To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates
that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money
launderers. With the large volumes of international currency
that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it
vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center," Susan
Pittman of the State Department's Bureau of International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement, told Reuters.
Last year, the Vatican adapted internal laws to comply with
international standards on financial crime.
The Vatican is seeking inclusion on the European
Commission's so-called "white list" of states who comply with
international standards against tax fraud and money-laundering.
A decision on its inclusion is expected in June.
"Our aim is to make the 'white list' and we are happy that
we have been put in the State Department's less vulnerable
category," a Vatican official said, speaking on condition of
The category of most vulnerable centres includes all members
of the Group of Eight countries, including the United States,
Germany, Italy and Russia, because the size of their economies
and banking systems can facilitate money-laundering. It also
includes small centres such as Britain's Channel Islands.
The State Department's methodology is different from that of
the Financial Action Task Force's International Cooperation
Review Group (ICRG), which concentrates on a nation's compliance
with international law and money-laundering regulations.
VATICAN BANK HAS SCANDALOUS PAST
The Vatican Bank, founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII, has been
in the spotlight since September 2010 when Italian investigators
froze 23 million euros ($33 million) in funds in Italian banks
after opening an investigation into possible money-laundering.
The bank said it did nothing wrong and was just transferring
funds between its own accounts. The money was released in June
2011 but the investigation is continuing.
The Vatican's new financial transparency laws set up
internal regulations to make sure its bank and all other
departments adhere to international regulations and standards,
and cooperate with foreign authorities.
Two months ago, Italian newspapers published leaked internal
letters which appeared to show a conflict among top Vatican
officials about just how transparent the bank should be about
dealings that took place before it enacted its new laws.
The Vatican Bank was formally known as the Institute for
Works of Religion (IOR) and was entangled in the collapse 30
years ago of Banco Ambrosiano, with its lurid allegations about
money-laundering, freemasons, mafiosi and the mysterious death
of Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi - "God's banker".
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Robert Woodward)