Pope appoints new head financial watchdog

Pope Francis, Thursday, appointed Carmelo Barbagallo as president of the Vatican’s financial watchdog, the Financial Information Authority (AIF).

Barbagallo, 63 is an auditor and Italian banking consultant in the areas of banking, financial supervision and Single Supervisory Mechanism.

Previously he was head of the banking and financial supervision department of the Bank of Italy.

“I am honoured to have received this appointment, aware of the full weight of the moral and professional responsibility it carries,” Barbagallo told Vatican News.

The move came amid several events:

  • On October 1, Vatican gendarmes raided the offices of the Secretariat of State and AIF after the Vatican Bank considered “suspicious”, a €100m loan to finance a loan on a property in London’s upmarket Chelsea neighbourhood.
  • The Vatican suspended five employees including the AIF’s number two official, Tommaso Di Ruzza.
  • AIF president Rene Brülhart released a statement expressing full faith in Di Ruzza.
  • Brülhart unexpectedly resigned.
  • Since Brülhart’s resignation, Marc Odendall, a retired Swiss-German banker also tendered his resignation from the AIF Board saying there’s no point in staying on the board of an empty shell.
  • The Egmont Group, a Toronto-based network of more than 160 national financial intelligence units around the world suspended the Vatican from access to its information because the Vatican represented a security threat.

Barbagallo says he will bring all of his 40 years experience to his new position.

Adding, “the AIF will be able to give its own contribution in its role as a supervisory authority, so that the fundamental values of fairness and transparency of all the financial movements in which the Holy See is engaged may continue to be affirmed and recognized”.

“I intend to reassure the international system of financial information that all cooperation will be given in full respect of the best international standards,” he said.

On the plane home from Thailand and Japan, Pope Francis expressed confidence in the Vatican’s financial reforms.

Saying the questions about Vatican finances are serious, especially those involving the London real estate deal, but he is of the view that the reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working.

“This is the first time the lids have been taken off the pots by someone inside and not outside”, he said.


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