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AUSTRAC claimed the Vatican wired $2.3 billion to Australia. The true figure was $9.5 million

AUSTRAC Vatican Software Bungle

Title: AUSTRAC claimed the Vatican wired $2.3 billion to Australia. The true figure was $9.5 million
Author: Bevan Shields
Publisher:  The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: 14JAN2021

London: The financial crime watchdog has issued a grovelling apology after accidentally telling Parliament that the Vatican transferred $2.3 billion to Australia over seven years when the actual amount was less than $10 million.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre’s claim prompted alarm and confusion in the Holy See, where Cardinal George Pell has been caught up in an ugly internal war over its financial affairs.

But AUSTRAC has now conceded the $2.3 billion figure was 242 times higher than the true total of $9.5 million and blamed software for the bungle.

In a letter to a Senate committee, chief executive Nicole Rose said “quality assurance processes should have identified” the error and promised a review to make sure the mistake could not happen again.

It is thought the agency incorrectly apportioned to the Vatican hundreds of millions of dollars in transfers between Italy and Australia, leading to the massively inflated figure.

AUSTRAC provided the $2.3 billion figure to Parliament in December following a question from Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. The senator was probing claims by Italian newspapers of suspicious transfers between the Vatican and Australia and whether any funds had been used to influence the 2018 trial and conviction of Pell on child sex abuse charges.
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