Vatican bank joins global 'fight against money laundering'
THE revelations of wrongdoing currently rocking the Vatican bank couldn't have come at a worse time for the Swiss-born anti-money laundering expert hired to lead the Holy See's push for greater financial transparency.
Rene Bruelhart was heading to Sun City, South Africa, for the annual meeting of the Egmont Group, a gathering of financial information agencies from 130 countries, when the Vatican announced that its top two bank managers had resigned amid a blossoming financial scandal. The two were responsible for implementing much-touted anti-money laundering efforts. But their resignations indicated they hadn't embraced fully the scope of reform that was needed.
Despite latest news, the Holy See won a coveted membership in the Egmont Group on Wednesday – joining a club that aims to share financial information in the global fight against money laundering and terror financing.
For Mr Bruelhart, dubbed the "James Bond of the financial world" by some media, joining Egmont meant that the Vatican now has more help in combating financial crimes – even if it can't root them out entirely.
"With this membership, we are a credible player in the international and global fight against money laundering and terror finance," Mr Bruelhart said in a telephone interview from Sun City. "They trust us. That is very important."
The Egmont Group, which was created in 1995, aims to smooth the exchange of information among its members and improve co-operation in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Its members are the financial intelligence units of countries' central banks – the departments that collect and investigate reports of suspicious financial transactions.
Mr Bruelhart headed Liechtenstein's financial intelligence unit for eight years, and led the Egmont Group for two before being tapped by the Vatican as a consultant last year. The Holy See eventually named him director of its own financial intelligence unit to oversee all its financial activities. Then-Pope Benedict XVI created the Financial Intelligence Authority, or AIF, in 2010 as part of the Vatican's push to comply with international norms to fight money laundering.