Pope Francis Fires Entire Vatican Financial Watchdog

Pope Francis fired the entire all-Italian board of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) on Thursday and named four international experts as the new board for the Holy See’s internal regulatory office.

Reuters reports that, in his latest move to clean up Vatican finances, the pope named to the AIF Marc Odendall, a philanthropic advisor from Switzerland; Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard law professor, former deputy National Security Advisor in the Bush administration, and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.; Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and senior advisor to that nation’s president; and Maria Bianca Farina, an Italian insurance executive and board member of “Save the Children.”

Vatican reformers have been urging the pope to appoint professionals with international backgrounds to work with René Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF and also has been pushing for reform. Bruelhart, Liechtenstein’s former top expert on combating money laundering, urged Pope Francis to appoint other global professionals.

The Vatican also announced on Thursday that Tommaso di Ruzza, an official of the AIF, has been named to the new position of vice-director and will work under Bruelhart.

The AIF was created in 2010 under Pope Benedict XVI to bring the Vatican into compliance with international standards that fight to prevent money laundering as well as the financing of terrorism.

In January, Pope Francis removed AIF president Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who played a primary role in Vatican finances for more than a decade, and replaced him with an archbishop with a reputation for reform within the Vatican bureaucracy.

In addition, the pontiff replaced four of the five cardinals in the commission that oversees the Vatican bank known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

In February, the pope also set up a new Secretariat for the Economy that reports directly to him and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as its head.

Vatican finances have endured a number of scandals, and Pope Francis has indicated that the system must be more transparent in order for the Church to have credibility.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former senior Vatican accountant with close ties to the IOR, for example, is now on trial for plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from Switzerland in a plan to help some wealthy friends avoid paying taxes. Scarano was also indicted on charges of laundering millions of euros through the IOR.

Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, the IOR’s director and deputy director, both resigned in July of 2013 following Scarano’s arrest and will be tried on charges of violating anti-money laundering norms.


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