Vatican Australia Money Transfers
What we know, and what we don’t. A Pillar Explainer.
An Australian newspaper called The Australian reported last month that since 2014, billions of dollars have been transferred from the Vatican to bank accounts in Australia, without the knowledge of Australian Catholic bishops, or, apparently, Vatican officials.
The situation is quite murky, and could have ties to ongoing financial scandals at the Vatican, or to other illicit dealings.
Here’s what we know so far:
What happened, exactly?
Austrac, an Australian financial intelligence agency, reported in December that between 2014 and 2020 more than 2 billion Australian dollars had been transferred from accounts in the Vatican City State to accounts in Australia.
In fact, that information was first made available in a report released by Austrac in July, but only gained attention in a second December report.
The second report came after Italian media suggested in October that now-disgraced Cardinal Angelo Becciu was suspected of wiring 700,000 euro to Australia, allegedly to help secure a criminal prosecution against Cardinal George Pell, the Australian who, from 2014 until 2017, was in charge of cleaning up Vatican financial affairs.
Becciu denied that allegation, and Austrac clarified that a far greater sum of money has been wired from Rome to Oz.
It’s not illegal for banks to wire money between countries, but it is apparently unusual for such large sums of money to leave accounts affiliated with the Vatican City State.
And here’s where things get weird: Both Australian bishops and the Vatican say they don’t know anything about the wire transfers. Officials in Rome have told journalists that the Vatican has no record of the transactions Austrac recorded. Multiple sources have told The Pillar that the Australian bishops’ conference has written to Pope Francis asking for an investigation. But, for now, no one has any clear answers.