Vatican Finances: Don't Let Your Guard Down

June 23, 2022

The Financial Supervision and Information Authority (Asif) has just submitted its annual report: it notes, in addition to “the excellent work done,” an increase in reports of suspicious activity in 2021, and calls for the department to “not to lower its guard” in the years to come.

Founded in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, the authority responsible for combating illegal activities in the financial and monetary fields was renamed the Financial Supervisory and Information Authority by Pope Francis in 2020.

In its annual report published on June 13, 2022, Asif reveals that it received 104 suspicious activity reports last year, an increase in number compared to 2020, when “only” 89 reports of the same type had been noted.

Of the 104 suspicious reports in 2021, 98 come from the Institute of Roman Works (IOR) – improperly called the “bank” of the Holy See – 5 from the Vatican authorities, and 1 from a non-profit organization.

“ASIF submitted 21 reports to the Office of the Promoter of Justice which represents the highest number recorded in the last five years,” as stated in the official report.

Commenting on this publication, the president of Asif, Carmelo Barbagallo, wanted to be quite nuanced, describing 2021 as a “year of consolidation” for his services, even welcoming the “favorable report” on Vatican finances made by Moneyval , the organ of the Council of Europe for the fight against money laundering.

“A possible negative rating would have had repercussions on the transparency policy undertaken for a long time by the Holy See and would also have risked complicating the financial relations of institutions such as the IOR or the APSA with their foreign counterparts,” insists Carmelo Barbagallo, who adds that Moneyval's positive judgment is the result of “the excellent work done in previous years.”

But the president of Asif recognizes that: “we cannot let our guard down in terms of the effectiveness of preventive measures” in terms of transparency, and “in accordance with international standards.”

It must be said that in terms of transparency, Carmelo Barbagallo's predecessors do not always seem to have set an example: René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza – respectively ex-president and director of the former AIF – are in fact part of the ten people currently on trial in the Vatican, accused of financial irregularities.