Pope Francis ousts all-Italian board of Vatican’s financial watchdog
Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican - REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis sacked the all-Italian five-man board of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority in what is described as a move to break with the murky past of the “old guard” under his predecessor.

The Vatican reports that the pope appointed an international team with experts from Switzerland, Singapore, Italy, and the United States to replace the ousted board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF). The AIF is the internal regulatory office of the Holy Sea.

The five ousted members were an all-Italian team that was tasked to complete a five-year term in 2016. The five are being positioned as “the Vatican’s discredited old guard,” which among others, were tainted by alleged links to Italy’s organized crime.

A group, described as “reformers,” inside the Vatican has reportedly found Pope Francis’ steps to clean-up the Vatican’s finances insufficient and pushed the pope to appoint an international team of professionals to work with Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who is heading the AIF and who also has been pushing for reform.

Bruelhart was, according to Vatican sources “chafing under the old board” and wanted Pope Francis to appoint experts like him, who have global experience.

Bruelhart is Liechtenstein’s former top-anti-money laundering expert, a qualification that will put a smile on the faces of those who know that Liechtenstein has a global reputation as a tax haven and money-laundering “paradise.”

The ousting of the all-Italian old guard with ties to Italy’s organized crime with experts of “global” experience and backgrounds ties to Washington think tanks and Wall Street banks lets some suspect that the Vatican is expanding rather than addressing its involvement in murky financial operations. The Reuters news agency quotes “a Vatican source familiar with the situation” as saying:

“Bruelhart wanted a board he could work with and it seems the pope has come down on his side and sent the old-boy network packing.”

This new board of the AIF includes Marc Odendall, who administers and advises philanthropic organizations in Switzerland. Odendall has previously served in positions at JPMorgan and Merryl Lynch. The second new board member is Juan C. Zarata, a Harvard law professor and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C. think tank that is closely tied to persons like Zbigniev Brzezinski.

The third new member of the board is Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, a former managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and senior adviser to the country’s president. The fourth new board member is Maria Bianca Farine, who is the head of two Italian insurance companies and the first ever woman to be appointed to the board of the AIF.

After Pope Francis was elected to succeed Pope Benedict in March 2013, he set up a new Secretariat for the Economy that is reporting directly to him as well as to an appointed trustee and outsider, the Australian Cardinal George Pell who is heading the secretariat.

In January 2014 Francis replaced Cardinal Attilio Nara who has held senior positions within the Vatican’s finances for over a decade as president of the AIF. He also replaced four of five cardinals in the supervisory commission of the Vatican’s Bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Bruelhart has since his arrival at the AIF in 2012 spearheaded reforms to bring the Vatican in line with international standards on financial transparency and money laundering, but he was reportedly met with significant resistance from within.

Francis warned that a lack of transparency threatened the credibility of the Church and reportedly decided against closing down the IOR on condition that it implements reforms which would include the closure of accounts held by persons who are not entitled to holding them.

One of the latest major scandals involving the IOR centers around Monsignor Nunzuo Scarano, a senior Vatican accountant. Scarano is currently standing trial on charges of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars from Switzerland into Italy in a scheme to help rich friends evade taxes.

Scarano is also, on separate charges, accused of laundering millions of euros through the IOR. The IOR’s director Paolo Cipriani and deputy director MassimoTulli resigned after Scarano’s arrest. Both stand trial on charges of violating anti-money laundering norms.

Originally published at nsnbc International.

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