Wed | Dec 11, 2019

Pope replaces financial watchdog head amid fallout from raid

Published:Monday | November 18, 2019 | 10:18 AM
Pope Francis salutes faithful in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican at the end of an audience with members of parish evangelization services, Monday, November 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday replaced the head of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency amid continuing fallout from a controversial Vatican police raid on the agency’s offices that jeopardised the Holy See’s international financial reputation.

Francis thanked Rene Bruelhart for his work as president of the Financial Intelligence Authority as his term ended. The Vatican said the replacement’s name would be released next week.

The AIF board had given its full support to AIF’s management after the October 1 raid, which was sparked by a police investigation into a Vatican real estate deal in London.

But even with that vote of support, international damage to the Holy See’s reputation was done.

AIF works with financial intelligence units around the world in the fight against money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

Officials expressed alarm that countries could be less willing to share confidential information with AIF in the future if that could so easily end up in the hands of Vatican police.

According to the search warrant, which was seen by The Associated Press, Vatican prosecutors only alleged that the AIF’s actions in the real estate operation were “not clear” and faulted its director, Tommaso Di Ruzza, for being in contact with a London law firm.

Prosecutors appeared to have misunderstood that AIF was working with Britain’s financial intelligence unit to try to catch the businessmen who were fleecing the Holy See in the real estate deal.

The Vatican’s secretariat of state had put 150 million euros into the luxury apartment building in London’s tony Chelsea neighbourhood, only to see tens of millions end up in the pockets of middlemen who were managing the venture.

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