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Vatican watchdog sees record cooperation levels despite raid

The Vatican’s financial watchdog agency has reported record levels of internal cooperation despite being thrown into turmoil in October when Vatican police raided its offices as part of an investigation into a 350 million-euro (nearly $400 million) London real estate deal.

The Financial Information Authority, created in 2010 to help the Vatican shed its reputation as an offshore tax haven, issued its annual report Friday. It said it received 64 suspicious activity reports last year and forwarded 15 of the cases to Vatican prosecutors for further investigation.

The agency, known by its Italian acronym AIF, reported receiving internal requests for information concerning 423 subjects, a record high number that indicated greater cooperation within the Holy See in efforts to stamp out money-laundering and other financial crimes, the report said.

And yet the report made no mention of the fact that the AIF office was raided on Oct. 1 by Vatican police who seized confidential documentation as part of an investigation by Vatican prosecutors into the secretariat of state’s 2012 investment into a luxury London residential building.

The resulting scandal has exposed that the Holy See poured 350 million euros into the building, much of it donations from the faithful, while signing unfavorable contracts with middlemen who made millions of euros in fees to manage and develop the property.

At the time of the raid, the AIF was conducting its own cross-border investigation into the deal, trying to follow the money to see who might be benefiting from it. The controversial raid, which torpedoed the AIF investigation and resulted in the removal of the AIF’s top two managers, suggests that the prosecutors’ investigation was sparked at least in part by fears that the AIF was being too aggressive in rooting out financial malfeasance that could have implicated high ranking Vatican officials.

Read more at Crux

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