Interview with Vatican Financial Oversight Director

René Brülhart, 40, has been the director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (FIA) for nearly half a year. The Swiss lawyer and former head of Liechtenstein’s financial intelligence unit is on a mission to clear the Vatican Bank of all suspicions of money laundering and other illegal financial transactions.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Brülhart, are you partly responsible for Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation?

Brülhart: That does not fall within my area of responsibility. Why do you ask?

SPIEGEL: The first resignation of a pope in centuries has sparked widespread speculation. For instance, there is conjecture that the pope had to resign because he pushed for more transparency at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank, and strove to clear it of all suspicions of money laundering. That is your job.

Brülhart: Let’s allow conspiracy theories to simply remain conspiracy theories. Only the Holy Father emeritus knows the ultimate reasons for his resignation. It has nothing to do with my work.

SPIEGEL: Since September 2012, it has been your job to step up the fight against money laundering and remove vulnerabilities in the Vatican’s financial system. How much of a willingness to make reforms actually exists?

Brülhart: Back in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI moved to combat money laundering and founded the Financial Information Authority (FIA). The first anti-money laundering law was introduced in 2011, and this legislation was further tightened a few months later. The Vatican has submitted to an audit by the European Council’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL). The Church intends to apply international standards.

SPIEGEL: The MONEYVAL report from the summer of 2011 certifies that the Vatican has made progress, but it still lists serious shortcomings, such as a lack of independence and the insufficient monitoring abilities of your supervisory authority.

Brülhart: We don’t live in a world where everything is perfect at the push of a button. The report was an objective appraisal of the situation. We have made great efforts since then, and we shall continue to do so. The next step will involve bolstering the legal framework of the monitoring system within the IOR area of supervision, as stipulated. Continue reading





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