World News

Vatican names board of new financial authority

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Tuesday named a cardinal, three academics and a finance expert to the board of the Vatican’s new internal watchdog to check that its bank and all other offices comply with international law.

The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (FIA) was set up last month to see that the Vatican bank and all other Vatican departments adhere to European regulations on issues such as money laundering and cooperate with foreign authorities.

The FIA’s chairman will be Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora, currently head of APSA, the department that administers the Vatican’s real estate and financial holdings.

The board members include Claudio Bianchi, professor of accounting at Rome’s La Sapienza university, Marcello Condemi, professor of economic law at Rome’s Marconi University, and Professor Giuseppe Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, rector of Rome’s LUMSA university.

The other board member is Cesare Testa, head of the Italian Roman Catholic Church’s department that manages funds that pay the salaries of priests in Italy.

The FIA’s general manager will be chosen by Nicora and the four board members by April 1, when new laws establishing the FIA come into effect, the Vatican said.

The Vatican unveiled the laws last month to bring it in line with international standards on financial transparency and the fight against funding terrorism.

It was the biggest action ever taken by the Vatican to meet international demands for more financial openness.

The Vatican hopes it can secure an entry in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “White List” of states complying with international banking standards.

The new Vatican laws aim to make Vatican City, a 108-acre sovereign state surrounded by Rome, comply with the rules of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based body which decides if states meet standards on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Vatican Bank was in the spotlight in September when Italian investigators froze 23 million euros’ worth of funds in Italian banks after they opened an investigation into possible money laundering.

The bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), says it did nothing wrong and was just transferring funds between its own accounts.

The Vatican’s FIA will oversee all Vatican departments. This means offices such as its missionary arm, which handles tens of millions of dollars a year, will be subject to stringent regulations and oversight.

Editing by Maria Golovnina