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Vatican judiciary report highlights increased international cooperation

Banner a view of st peters basilica in vatican city jan 25 2015 credit bohumil petrik cna 5 cna 1 26 15

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Jan. 25, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

The Vatican enhanced international cooperation following the reform of the state's penal code and its anti-money laundering laws, according to a Jan. 31 report presented by Gian Piero Milano,  Promoter of Justice at the Vatican tribunal. The report was presented at the opening of the Vatican Tribunal's new judicial year. The Vatican's public prosecutor underscored in his presentation that Vatican investigators made two arrests for child pornography; that two accounts of the Institute for Religious Works have been seized, while 200 financial operations have been verified; and that the Vatican has received 10 international requests from foreign judicial authorities, and accepted seven of them. As eight out of the 10 requests came from Italy, Milano underscored in his report that the Vatican addressed an international request to Italy in 2013 in order to “receive international information on the accounts of an cleric tried in Italy for a series of crimes (fraud, money laundering, corruption) and investigated by the office of the Public Prosecutor.” Milano refers to the case of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, a former employee at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, who is being investigated for allegedly planning to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy aboard an Italian government airplane, and for supposedly laundering 560,000 euros ($744,000) that he took from his account at the Institute for Religious Works, the 'Vatican bank', to pay off the mortgage of a house in Salerno. According to Milano, his Italian counterpart responded with “documents lacking essential elements” such as the transcripts of the interrogations of the defendant, his alleged accomplices, and people informed of the facts. The Vatican public prosecutor also stressed that the documents “highlight a modus operandi” in getting  evidence that “may be described as improper and which is not aligned with current international protocols.” On the other hand, the Vatican has undergone a long path to conform its internal law to international standards, as the report shows. The judicial overhaul of Vatican City State was started by Benedict XVI. The Vatican legal code dates back to 1929. In 1969, Bl. Paul VI made some modifications to update its penal legislation. However, they did not made the Vatican penal legislation applicable beyond Vatican territory. But still there was the need to further adjustments. So, through three laws issued July 11, 2013, Vatican City State made its legal system more complete. It eliminated the possibility of life imprisonment as a sentence; it inserted in its legislation punishment for crimes against minors; and it strengthened the penalties for money-laundering and corruption. All of these activities were considered crimes even before the reform, but the reform makes their definition as crimes more specific. “Vatican City State, from a little enclave within Italy, has become part of an international community always more characterized by a globalization that involves not only customs, but also criminal activities,” Milano stressed. Milano underscored that the Vatican's anti-money laundering law is “very much more detailed than the law Italy has recently adopted.” One of the first turning points was the 2010 anti money-laundering law, which was later improved and replaced by a modern and comprehensive law for financial issues in October 2013. The law was in conformity with the monetary convention the Holy See signed with the European Union in 2009. Through that convention, the Holy See became part of the euro zone, albeit without being part of the European Union. The anti money-laundering law represented a concrete sign that the Vatican’s borders are now with Europe, and the Authority for Financial Information has signed several Memoranda of Understanding with its counterparts to enhance international cooperation. It is also noteworthy that last week the Authority has updated the List of Subjects that threaten International Peace and Security. The Authority has received in the course of the last year five suspect transactions reports. More in general, Milano noted that “crimes are increasing” in Vatican City State, and reported that in the last judicial year the public prosecutor ordered six arrests. Though the prosecutor did not mention any names, three of the arrests are already known: that of Marcello Di Finizio, an Italian entrepreneur who spent ten days under arrest in the Vatican during Christmas time following his most recent attempt to climb St. Peter’s Dome; the ‘femen’ activist who had bared her breasts Dec. 26, 2014 in St. Peter’s Square and grabbed the baby Jesus of the Nativity; and the former nuncio to Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski. Though the Vatican public prosecutor did not make any specific mention of Wesolowski, the case of the former nuncio to Dominican Republic was the object of several parts of the report. Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio who spent his career in Eastern Europe and then ended up as papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic, was put under house arrest in the Vatican Set. 23, 2014 for alleged serious acts of abuse of minors and will be criminally charged by a Vatican penal court, after the tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deemed him guilty in the first stage of the process. He had been laicized June 27, 2014. As it had been suggested in some quarters that Wesolowski had been somehow shielded from civil jurisdiction, the Vatican public prosecutor has made it clear that “the investigators are working in full autonomy, and far from any interference,” while the investigation “aims at the most exact assessment of facts.” Milano also mentioned that there had been “isolated attempts” to involve the Vatican in “international drug trafficking.” The attempts consisted in “three mailings” of packages of drugs to the Vatican, which have been monitored by the Vatican Gendarmes Corps. Milano also lamented that “in one case, a media leak made vain the joint international police intervention,” since “no one has come to get” the envelope with the drugs. The report also mentioned the case of Emanuela Orlandi, a Vatican citizen who disappeared in 1983. Orlandi was the daughter of a Vatican bank employee, and was 15 when she disappeared on her way to school on June 22. Milano described the Orlandi case as “delicate case, with many unsolved issues, that aroused in the course of the years the attention of the media and public opinion.” Milano announced that “the Vatican tribunal has appointed a curator” of Emanuela Orlandi’s goods. Milano also stressed the need to introduce in the Vatican penal code the crime of usury, which was not included in Italy's 1889 code, the basis for much of the Vatican's statutory law.

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