The investigation published by The Australian a few days before Christmas had something to make heads turn: financial organizations linked to the Vatican have transferred a total of 1.4 billion euros to Australia between 2014 and 2019, without the knowledge of the Australian Bishops’ Conference.
The figures revealed in detail on December 23, 2020, were sourced from the report Austrac, Australia’s financial crime regulator, released to the Australian Senate in response to questions from Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
Due to the enormity of the total amount of the transfers, several senior Church leaders in Australia, speaking on condition of anonymity in the columns of The Australian, claim to be surprised by this news, and make assurances that they were not made at all aware of such transfers of funds.
On the Vatican side, they speak of “science fiction,” since the annual budget of the smallest state in the world amounts to 330 million euros, explains a Roman source in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Fair enough, “in light of the investigations carried out at the Vatican into corruption, embezzlement, and money laundering, and if we add the accusations leveled against certain officials of the Holy See who have been suspended, we have the right to know where the money has gone,” retorts Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
Because Austrac has not communicated to the Senate the lucky beneficiaries of the transfers: The Australian for its part refers to the investments made by the Vatican in the bond and equity market.
Another fact noted by the Australian media: the 400,000 transactions began with the arrival of Australian Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the secretariat for the economy in 2014, and intensified in 2015, when the high prelate had to return to his country to face charges of abuse, from which he was definitively cleared in 2020.
Should this be seen as the effect of mere coincidence? When contacted by reporters, Australian Federal Police confirmed they were continuing to investigate.