Leaders Resign from ‘Empty Shell’ Vatican Financial Oversight Organization

Pope Francis touches a painting depicting Virgin Mary at the end of his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
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ROME — Two board members of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) have resigned, with one saying that there is “no point in staying on the board of an empty shell.”

On Monday, the Vatican announced that Rene Bruelhart, the president of the AIF, would be leaving and that his successor has already been appointed, just weeks after unprecedented internal police raids on both his organization and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Bruelhart, a 47-year-old Swiss lawyer, said he resigned from the top job at the AIF, but did not go into further detail.

Later that day, Marc Odendall, a Swiss-German retired banker and AIF board member, handed in his resignation as well.

On Tuesday, Odendall told the Associated Press that he was leaving because of Bruelhart’s removal as well as the suspension of AIF from the communications network of the Egmont Group, a consortium of financial information agencies from 130 countries, following the October 1 Vatican police raid on AIF’s offices.

“We cannot access information and we cannot share information,” he said. “There is no point in staying on the board of an empty shell.”

While AIF will continue to be a member of Egmont, it will no longer enjoy access to the secure communications network used to share confidential information against money laundering and other financial crimes, Odendall said.

The Vatican police raid on AIF offices resulted in the suspension of AIF director Tommaso Di Ruzza and four other Vatican employees, but so far, the Vatican has given no explanation for the raid or the suspension.

The AP reported that the Vatican’s 16-page search warrant cited actions of the Vatican’s secretariat of state, which invested 150 million euros ($165 million) in a luxury apartment building in London’s upscale Chelsea neighborhood in 2012.

The search warrant also contained allegations that the AIF’s actions in the London real estate operation were “not clear” noting that Mr. Di Ruzza had been in contact with a London law firm involved in the deal.

Pope Benedict XVI established the AIF in 2010, after signing a Monetary Agreement with the European Union (EU) that called for the Vatican to regulate its finances in accordance with the EU’s anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing (AML/CTF) Code of Practice.

Six days ago, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named a fellow Jesuit, Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, to replace Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The 60-year-old Guerrero, a Spanish priest, will begin his term as prefect in January 2020.

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