Friday, January 4, 2013

Vatican Goes ‘Cash Only’ Because of Lack of Money-Laundering Controls

VATICAN CITY — If you’re planning a trip to the Vatican, be sure to take cash.

Since Wednesday, museums and businesses in the Holy See have been declining credit card and debit card purchases following a decision by the Bank of Italy that is reportedly linked to concerns over inadequate money-laundering controls.

Cash machines have also been shut down after the Italian central bank refused authorization for Deutsche Bank’s Italian unit to continue operating services it provided within the Vatican’s walls. ...

The banking freeze, which has prompted the move to cash-only transactions, and which Vatican officials have tersely dismissed as a technical problem, has prompted speculation in the Italian press that a fresh scandal is about to erupt involving the ministate’s still-shadowy finances.

Pope Benedict XVI has pledged to throw light on the Holy See’s finances and on its ultrasecretive Institute for Works of Religion, otherwise known as the Vatican Bank. He has even hired a Swiss expert in money laundering controls, René Brülhart, to oversee the process.

- The New York Times, By HARVEY MORRIS