Vatican Money Laundering AUSTRAC
VATICAN CITY — Vatican investigators have claimed that a report showing $1.8 billion was wired from the Vatican to Australia from 2014 to 2020 is “significantly” overestimated, but many questions remain about the transfers, which some experts say point to money laundering and organized crime involvement.
The Australian newspaper, which first broke the story of the transactions, reported Jan. 6 that the country’s financial crime regulator — the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) — has been working closely with the Holy See’s financial intelligence unit and found “anomalies” in the figures, which are expected to be revised soon.
The Vatican confirmed to the Register Jan. 7 that contacts between its Financial Information and Supervision Authority and Austrac “are ongoing” with a view to “examining the data provided by the latter in recent days.”
Details of the alleged $1.8 billion, made in 47,000 separate transfers, emerged just before Christmas when Austrac presented the figures in response to a request from Australian senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
The senator said on receiving the figures last month it was important to “know where the money went,” and noted that the transfers “accelerated” when former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell was facing investigations in Australia “and peaked when he was sidelined from financial control of the Vatican while facing charges and trial in Australia.”
According to Austrac, the alleged transfers from the Vatican doubled every year from 2014, beginning with $54.1 million and peaking at $439.3 million in 2017. Another $913.4 million was allegedly added from 2018 until the financial year to date.
In comments to the Register on Dec. 24, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he was “not in a position” to answer questions relating to the transfers “since neither I personally, nor the Vatican administrations that I have consulted in this regard, knew anything about the information.”
“We are trying to see what we can find out,” the cardinal added.