The new head of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF) announced Thursday that the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog’s suspension from an international group has been revoked, and the AIF can resume collaboration with foreign financial intelligence units.
“This is a very important step, one which demonstrates the confirmed trust of the Egmont Group in the financial information system of the Vatican,” AIF President Carmelo Barbagallo said Jan. 23.
The Egmont Group, through which 164 financial intelligence authorities share information and coordinate their work, suspended the AIF Nov. 13 following a raid on the Vatican offices of the Secretariat of State and the AIF by the Vatican gendarmes. Barbagallo said that the President of the Egmont Group decided to revoke this decision on the night of Jan. 22.
“This decision follows the explanations provided by AIF to Egmont concerning the extraordinary nature of the facts that gave rise to the suspension and AIF’s assurances that the information received from the Egmont circuit will be treated in a manner that is consistent with the rules that apply to that circuit, partly thanks to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Promoter of Justice,” he said.
Barbagallo, an auditor and Italian banking consultant, was appointed president of the AIF following the resignation of René Brüelhart in Nov. 2019.
Before being readmitted to the Egmont Group’s secure communications network, the Vatican Tribunal had to guarantee the processing of confidential intelligence data that had been acquired in the course of investigations into the purchase and sale of a London property, according to ACI Stampa.
The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee Vatican financial transactions; it is charged with ensuring that internal banking policies comply with international financial standards.
After the Vatican gendarmes raid of the AIF on Oct. 1, a total of five employees and officials were suspended and blocked from entering the Vatican, including Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the AIF.
Aboard the papal plane from Tokyo to Rome Nov. 26, Pope Francis confirmed that Di Ruzza remained suspended because of suspected “bad administration.”
“It was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence,” Pope Francis said.
MONEYVAL, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, will carry out a scheduled inspection of the Vatican in spring 2020.