Vatican City, Jan 15, 2013 / 10:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bank of Italy's decision to not accept credit cards from foreign banks anymore at the Vatican has stunned a Vatican official, who reiterated the Holy See's financial transparency.
As of Jan. 1, the Vatican's main operator, Deutsche Bank Italian unit, has not been authorized to transact foreign credit cards in the tiny state – a move that could affect the millions of tourists who visit each year.
“I'm surprised by the measures taken by the Bank of Italy to block all credit card services of the Deutsche Bank in the Vatican,” said the Holy See's Financial Information Authority director René Brülhart in an interview with Corriere della Sera.
The Vatican underwent a third financial evaluation by the Moneyval Committee of the Council of Europe in July, passing nine of 16 “core and key recommendations,” which Brülhart called a “good report card.”
He explained that the Vatican was not subject to any special measures for monitoring money laundering by Moneyval or any other international body.
“We don't have problems with other European countries,” added the top expert on anti-money laundering.
“On the contrary, we have close collaboration and no other country in the world has adopted similar measures, which is why I'm truly surprised.”
But on Jan. 10 the Bank of Italy published a note on its website saying it maintains that “the presence of an effective anti money laundering regime have still not been proved” and cited the Moneyval report.
“The reality is that, considering the particular nature of the Vatican City State, adequate measures have been adopted for vigilance, prevention and fighting money laundering and financing terrorism,” countered Brülhart, who has been director of the AIF since November.
Last year the European Union requested the Vatican City to combat money laundering.
But according to the native Swiss, the Holy See has done so by implementing the “third EU directive,” which relates to anti money laundering and terrorist financing, along with the other European Union member states.
“In some cases the Holy See adopted a superior and more severe standard for the Moneyval evaluators than the one requested by the directive,” said the 40-year-old, who also labeled relations with the United States financial authorities as “excellent.”
The AIF began negotiations with 20 countries after joining Belgium and Spain in an international exchange of information called “Memoranda of Understanding” last year.
It will also join another international network for the exchange of confidential financial information, called the “Egmont Group,” which will include over 130 countries.
“The Holy See is committed to adopting further measures in the coming months because, as you know, fighting money laundering is always a work in progress,” said Brülhart.