Australian police find no criminal conduct in Vatican money transfers

Australian police find no criminal conduct in Vatican money transfers

SYDNEY, Feb 3 9:40 p.m. (ACI) .- The Australian Federal Police (AFP) released a statement on Wednesday in which they said that, so far, during their investigation into money transfers from the Vatican to Australia, they had found no evidence. of criminal conduct.

For a few months, Australian authorities investigated some suspicious payments equivalent to $ 7.4 million.

On a brief statement published on February 3, AFP said that “to date, no criminal behavior has been observed.”

“If AFP receives additional information from Australian or international entities, it will consider it appropriately,” the text added.

Local media reported in January that investigators were unable to determine the roughly $ 1.9 million spent on transfers from the Vatican to Australia, but found that 5.4 million had been spent on legitimate expenses such as travel, salaries and pensions.

On January 13, the institution responsible for monitoring financial crimes said it had overestimated transfers from the Vatican, attributing the miscalculation to a “computer code error”.

According to the Australian newspaper, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center – AUSTRAC (Australian Financial Reporting and Analysis Center) said it found an error after publishing a “detailed review” of the initial finding that some $ 1.8 billion had been transferred from the Vatican to Australia in around 47,000 separate transfers since 2014.

In collaboration with the Vatican Financial Supervisory and Reporting Authority (ASIF), AUSTRAC found that there were 362 transfers from the Vatican to Australia between 2014 and 2020, for a total of 7, $ 4 million.

The agency also concluded that over the past six years there had been 237 transfers totaling 20.6 million in the opposite direction: from Australia to the Vatican.

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The Vatican issued a January 13 statement acknowledging AUSTRAC’s error and stressing that the $ 7.4 million in payments “are attributed, among other things, to certain contractual obligations and to the ordinary management of its resources.”

Reports of the suspicious transfers from the Vatican to Australia date back to October 2020, when Italian media reported that the transfers were part of a case prepared by Vatican investigators and prosecutors regarding Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

In an Australian Senate hearing on October 20, AUSTRAC Executive Director Nicole Rose was questioned about allegations that Church funds were sent to Australia at Cardinal Becciu’s request to influence the trial of Cardinal George Pell, accused of sexual abuse, of which he was accused. eventually found not guilty after spending over a year in prison.

Rose told the Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee that “AUSTRAC has analyzed the matter and we have provided information to AFP and the (Victoria State) Police.”

On September 24, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Becciu, 72, as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and “all rights related to the cardinalate”, with this he will not be able to participate in a future conclave for the election of the next Pontiff.

Although the Holy See did not indicate the reasons for the resignation, it came after accusations of several financial scandals during the time when Cardinal Becciu was working as a substitute for the Vatican Secretariat of State, that is that is, when he was the second authority in charge of this department of the Holy See.

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Cardinal Becciu has repeatedly denied any maladministration or attempt to influence the trial against Cardinal Pell, mayor emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, which began in 2018.

Originally posted in CNA. Translated and adapted by Nathália Queiroz.

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