Vatican welcomes largely positive report on financial transparency

By David Kerr

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Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Holy See’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States, speaks at a Jul 18, 2012 press conference.

The Vatican is welcoming a largely positive report from the European body responsible for monitoring financial transparency, while also committing itself to further improvement.

“In this light, the report released today is not the end, but is rather an important passage of our continuing efforts to marry moral commitments to technical excellence,” said Monsignor Ettore Balestrero of the Vatican’s Secretary of State at a July 18 media briefing.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism – Moneyval – found the Vatican to be “compliant” or “largely compliant” on nine of the 16 “key and core” recommendations for combating terrorist financing and money-laundering.

“The Holy See has come a long way in a very short period of time and many of the building blocks of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are now formally in place,” concluded the Moneyval report, which was released on July 18.
 
“But further important issues still need addressing in order to demonstrate that a fully effective regime has been instituted in practice,” the report said.

Among Moneyval’s areas for concern was skepticism over the “workability” of the Vatican’s internal scrutiny body, the Financial Information Authority, which was created in 2010. Msgr. Balestrero said the Vatican was “grateful for this observation,” adding that they take “both the praise and criticism contained in the report with seriousness.”

The Vatican invited Moneyval to inspect its financial set up in February 2011 after passing new transparency legislation towards the end of 2010. “The last 19 months have been months of work and learning,” Msgr. Balestrero said with a smile.

“For the Holy See, this process is first and foremost a moral rather than a technical commitment,” he explained.

Msgr. Balestrero said that it is important for the Holy See to “use its moral authority to raise maximum awareness about the far too frequent transnational crime of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”

He also said that while the Vatican is proud of its recent acheivements, it is also committed to further improvements. These include a review of all current Vatican legislation and a “risk assessment” of present procedures conducted by Moneyval.
 
Msgr. Balestrero described the Vatican’s effort up until now as laying a foundation and said that now what remains is to “fully construct a building that effectively shows the Holy See’s and Vatican City State’s desire to be a reliable partner in the international community.”

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