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“Libero Milone’s resignation indicates that there could be a Vatileaks III”

That was the assessment of “observers” according to Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci, in his July 3 column. Milone, appointed by Pope Francis in 2015 as the Vatican’s financial auditor general, had resigned by “mutual agreement” on June 20. No reason was given. Milone made no statement.

In May 2016, two lay members of the Board of Superintendence of the Vatican Bank resigned “in light of legitimate reflections and opinions concerning [the bank’s] management” the Vatican said. Carlo Salvatori, President of Lazard Italia and Allianz Italia, and Clemens Borsig, former Chairman of the Board of Management at Deutsche Bank, remain silent.

René Brülhart, an official of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority since 2012, seems to have one foot out the door. In a March interview, Brülhart spoke about his “new role at a Swiss mortgage lender,” his “return to Swiss banking,” and that, regardless of his years in the Vatican, “I still see myself as an adviser to the financial services industry.”

Do Milone, Salvatori, Borsig and Brülhart know something we don’t?

Although consistently reported by the U.S. media as “reforming” or “cleaning up” the Vatican, Pope Francis never hired any forensic accountants or former law enforcement agents with expertise in financial malfeasance to assist him. Meanwhile, even a cursory examination of Pope Francis’ appointments would lead to questioning his intentions.

On July 1, 2013, the Vatican announced that Promontory Financial Group employees were appointed as the Vatican Bank’s (officially the Institute of Religious Works or IOR) director, chief risk officer and senior advisers. (See: “Promontory’s activities focus heavily on the adept circumvention of regulations,” according to an article on how Promontory “attempted to suppress evidence that [U.S.] borrowers had been harmed by the false and deceptive practices of the mortgages lenders.”)

Gagliarducci noted that same month that “Grupo Santander, owned by the Botin family (Opus Dei), is preparing training courses” for Vatican staff. Santander “will have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role of Santander in the Vatican.”

A sampling of Santander headlines:

Santander tops consumer complaints in Brazil

Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst,’ now accused of gouging U.S. consumers

Banco Santander S.A. Fined $200 Million for Advice Failings

Santander fined €16.9m by Spain’s stock market regulator for failing to provide buyers of its Valores bonds with the necessary information

Santander fined £12.4m by the [London] City regulator for serious failings in the way it sold thousands of customers investment products.

Santander Bank Fined $10 Million for Illegal Overdraft Fees by the [U.S.] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

U.S. Federal Reserve: Santander fails to comply with state and federal regulations

Santander will pay almost $25 million to two U.S. states for predatory loans

Banco Santander fined 1 mln euros for failing to stop money laundering “through an account held by the property group Rumasa [another Opus Dei company] between 2007 and 2011, the Spanish Supreme Court said on Nov. 28, 2016.”

“The case involves the continuing investigation into [a whistleblower’s] list of accounts from HSBC’s Swiss private bank in Geneva … Emilio Botín, then chief executive of Santander, was the most prominent Spanish name on the list, along with several members of his family.” High court judge, José de la Mata, “has been investigating whether HSBC helped clients to conceal and launder money from illicit gains.”

On June 10, Banco Popular [another Opus Dei bank] failed and was bought by Santander. “Popular’s 300,000 or so shareholders have now had the value of their investment reduced to zero. So have investors in some €2bn of bonds.” A 2013 article, “The scandalous economic practices of Opus Dei,” was about Banco Popular’s predatory student loans.

The above suggests questioning the scruples of Opus Dei leadership. In his introduction to Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei, Robert Hutchison wrote: “While conducting research for this book, I quickly found myself wandering through a world of deceit and dissimulation, crowded with holy manipulators and regulated by unscrupulous interests. As my knowledge of the organization deepened, I found its development punctuated by a score of sudden, untimely deaths: a Spanish Nationalist official who wanted to bring charges of treason against one of the founder’s first disciples, a Swiss priest who threatened to expose the Vatican’s financial misdealings, a former Spanish foreign minister, six bankers, a shadowy London antiques dealer, a Russian metropolitan suspected of being a KGB agent, a cardinal who opposed Opus Dei’s transformation into a personal prelature, a pope who was too liberal and a colonel of the Swiss Pontifical Guard who was thought to be an East German spy.”

Opus Dei in the Vatican

A month after his election, Pope Francis appointed an eight-member Council of Cardinals. Only those with ties to Opus Dei gained importance. Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga became coordinator of the Council; Sean O’Malley, president of the new sex-abuse commission; George Pell, prefect of the new Secretariat of the Economy, and Reinhard Marx, coordinator of the new Council for the Economy.

Pope Francis appointed Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Peru as a member of the Council for the Economy. “Under his leadership, the Archdiocese of Lima became an investor in the stocks of one of the most controversial mining companies which sparked the mobilization of large-scale environmental social movement in the country.”

The pope appointed Peter Sutherland, former chairman of Goldman Sachs International (See “As Europe descends into an austerity-induced economic crisis, Goldman Sachs  people are managing the demise of the continent”) as  adviser to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. APSA manages most of the investments portfolios, commercial real estate and bank accounts owned by the Vatican. It was reported in May 2016 that Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of APSA appointed by Pope Benedict, “is under investigation for alleged involvement in embezzlement” by Italian prosecutors. The case involves “the management of an institute to support the clergy” while Calcagno was the bishop of Savona.

Pope Francis named George Yeo, former finance minister of Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces as a member of the Council for the Economy. Both Sutherland and Yeo are on the advisory board of Opus Dei‘s flagship graduate business school, IESE.

Pope Francis appointed a new lay Board of Superintendence for the IOR.

  • Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, former CEO of Invesco’s European business and founder of a merger and acquisition advisory firm, is president of the board.
  • Mary Ann Glendon, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Opus Dei’s University of Navarre.
  • Michael Hintze was head of U.K. trading at Goldman Sachs.
  • Mauricio Larrain is director of a Santander Bank Group and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School in Chile.
  • Carlo Salvatori, Italian banker is also closeto Opus Dei.
  • Clemens Boersig is ex-chairman of Deutsche Bank.

After Salvatori and Boersig quit, they were replaced by three new members on Dec. 15, 2016, even though the IOR statutes call for the board to have only five members and a president.

  • Scott Malpass is vice president and chief investment officer of Notre Dame University. He was paid “close to $5.4 millionin total compensation in 2015.” In 2011 he was named one of the five highest paid chief investment officers of U.S. tax-exempt institutions.
  • Javier Marín Romano “has held various positions for Banco Santander” including CEO.
  • Georg von Boeselager “was responsible for the contact management for wealthy customers as Chairman of the Board of [private bankers] Merck Finck & Co.” Boeselager is the brother of Albrecht von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Order of the Knights of Malta, a philanthropic organization dating back to the 11th century.

Pope Francis named Greg Burke, former Fox News correspondent and member of Opus Dei as head of his Press Office. Burke said during an interview with the Washington Post, “I would love to bring some Roger Ailes into this job.”  (See: “Ailes, former Chairman and CEO of Fox News ousted amid sexual harassment scandal.)

Burke has been wildly successful with “all-Francis, all-the-time media coverage of the pope.”

In July 2016, the pontiff appointed Kim Daniels,  senior adviser of Catholic Voices USA and former adviser to Sara Palin, to the Secretariat for Communications. Catholic Voices USA is an off-shoot of Opus Dei’s U.K. Catholic Voices.

Pope Francis appointed Fr. José María La Porte, Dean of the Faculty of Institutional Social Communications of the [Opus Dei] Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, as a consultor of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.  The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross established the School of Church Communications in 1996 to train ecclesial media professionals.

The pope’s newly created Secretariat of Communications was “given the primary task of making sure what the pope says and does is made known to the world as quickly as possible.”

VATILEAKS III? WHERE THERE’S SMOKE …. 

New Cardinal Jean Zerbo

“Leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm” and “obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank’s dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior.”

As already mentioned, Emilio Botin “was the most prominent Spanish name on the list” known as “Swiss Leaks.” New cardinal Jean Zerbo, the Archbishop of Bamako, Mali, was also exposed by the same investigation as reported on May 30.

“Between 2002 and 2007, the Conference of Mali Bishops (CEM) maintained seven bank accounts” in HSBC’s Swiss private bank at a time when Zerbo was chairman of the CEM Finance Committee. “In five years, the portfolio generated approximately 12 million euros before mysteriously ‘evaporating.’” The accounts still exist.

The current head of CEM finance, Father Noël Somboro, commented “We have bank accounts everywhere.”

“Is this a misappropriation of funds by our men who preach good faith and honesty?” Where did this “gigantic sum” for a very poor country come from and where did it go? asked a Sahel news agency.

The CEM denied any “allegations of misappropriation of funds of the faithful.”

If confirmed, “it would mean they are involved in a system that we know organizes large-scale tax evasion and which is a parasite on the global economy as well as assisting in pumping resources out of Africa,” said Jean Merckaert, editor of magazine published by a French Jesuit.

Pope Francis elevated Zerbo to cardinal on June 28.

Knights of Malta

Albrecht von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Order of the Knights of Malta, was dismissed from the Order by Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on Dec. 6, 2016, after he twice refused to resign over a “failure of trust” and other “confidential” matters.

Dec. 15: Georg von Boeselager was appointed to the IOR Board of Superintendence.

Dec. 22: Pope Francis ordered a formal investigation of the Knights. He appointed a commission of five men including retired papal diplomat to the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, and Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) official Marc Odendall, who is also Counselor for the Knights of Malta in Geneva.

Jan. 24: The day after he received the commission’s report, Pope Francis summoned Festing to the Vatican and asked for his resignation. The Order voted to accept Festng’s resignation and reinstated Boeselager.

Vatican expert Edward Pentin reported on March 17 that the German newspaper Bild investigated the fund that had been alluded to by Festing in mid-January. Boeselager had “accepted a 30 million Swiss franc donation ($31 million) on behalf of the Order from what Bild called a ‘dubious trust’ in Geneva.”

Boeselager denied any wrongdoing. He “and other members of the Order have had dealings with the trust since 2010, but Fra’ Festing was unaware of its existence until only recently, after asking Boeselager directly about it,” Pentin wrote.

Pentin questioned “why the pope’s commission set up to look into Boeselager’s dismissal was made up of three individuals closely associated with the trust, none of whom wished to speak publicly about it; why the commission’s work was rushed and completed ahead of schedule, but in time for Boeselager to be reinstated [and] what the precise reasons were for Boeselager’s brother, Georg, being appointed to the board of the Vatican Bank in December.”

Drug Trafficking

“The news first broke in a June 28 article in Il Fatto Quotidiano: the Vatican gendarmerie raided a flat in the same building as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where they discovered hard drugs and a group of men engaged in homosexual activity.” A monsignor “had access to a luxury car with Vatican plates which allegedly allowed him to bring drugs into the Vatican.” The article “points out that the main entrance to the building opens onto Italian territory and so is out of the control of the Swiss Guard and the Vatican police. Anyone, day and night, can enter the Vatican freely through this entrance without being subjected to any check,” adding that it made that building “a perfect location to enjoy the privileges of extraterritoriality without having to undergo checks of either the Italian State or those of Vatican City.”

Mark Bello of “The Legal Examiner” gave some additional disturbing facts:

  • Reports state that the middle-of-the-night raid happened nearly two months prior, yet not a word was said by Vatican officials. The Italian media broke the story after receiving inside information.
  • Those Vatican plates also made that vehicle virtually exempt from searches by the Italian police.

Bello asks “Have cover-ups within the Church become the norm?”

Have Cover-ups Become the Norm?

In 2015, Gian Pietro Milano, the Vatican Tribunal’s Promoter of Justice, said there is a “rise in crimes” in the Vatican including attempts to involve the Vatican in “the global trafficking of narcotic substances.” Milano mentioned “three shipments” made from foreign states to the Vatican. No indictments or names were mentioned.

On Feb. 25, 2017, former IOR director Paolo Cipriani and deputy director Massimo Tulli were sentenced by a civil court in Rome to 4 months and ten days and a fine of six thousand euro for violation of anti-money laundering rules. The Italian prosecutor, Stefano Rocco Fava, said that the IOR is still “a place where it is possible to hide the illicit origin of money.”

The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, charged with the “prudential supervision” of all Curial persons and entities, as well as “the prevention and countering of money laundering,” released its 2016 Annual Report on May 16, 2017.

In 2016, the FIA made 207 “suspicious activity reports,” down from 544 in 2015. In 2016, 22 reports were submitted for further investigation to Vatican judicial authorities, up from 17 in 2015. The reports are voluntary and secret – no indictments and no names mentioned.

The last report by MONEYVAL, a group of European experts invited by Pope Benedict to evaluate Vatican financial structures, was made on Dec. 15, 2015. They are not forensic accountants. As regards the Vatican, they rely solely on the information provided to them,  dig no deeper, and issue a judgment based on this information. Even so, their report noted there had been “no real results” in terms of imposing accountability for financial crimes.

In March 2016, the Vatican said that two executives of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Hospital “were being investigated for the use of some 400,000 Euro towards restoration of [former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio] Bertone’s apartment, based on reporting done by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi in his November 2015 book “Avarice: Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis. The renovations took place in 2014.

The Associated Press published an investigative report on July 3 that the pediatric hospital had “put children at risk as it chased profits.” Based on medical personnel complaints, there was “a secret three-month Vatican-authorized investigation in early 2014.” The second Vatican inquiry in 2015 “concluded nothing was amiss after all.”

On July 13, the Vatican announced indictments against Giuseppe Profiti, a former president of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Hospital, and Massimo Spina, a former treasurer, for “allegedly redirecting funds from the hospital’s foundation to pay for renovations” of Bertone’s apartment.

The cardinal and hospital official were appointed during Pope Benedict’s pontificate. Other than the Vatileaks II trial, there have been no investigations or indictments announced by Vatican officials of anyone appointed in the current pontificate. Also, the investigation of Bambino Gesu executives’ “redirection of funds” was not generated by any FIA “suspicious activity report” or other internal Vatican oversight.

“Outsiders” in the Vatican

In July 2013, Gagliarducci wondered if reforms begun by Pope Benedict would be “wiped out” by Pope Francis hiring external financial consultants. At least in one case, they might have helped. Cardinal Pell stated that the accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), would audit all the Vatican departments. “The work of PwC would have been the first of its kind and was going to provide a complete picture of Holy See finances, including a valuation of assets.” The audits were squelched by Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State.

Gagliarducci has also questioned the loyalty of outsiders as compared to those he has referred to as the “hidden Vatican,” employees who have worked with fidelity to the papacy and Vatican for years.

Pope Francis instituted a hiring freeze in 2014, as well as a freeze on wage-increases and overtime. “In truth, new lay people are still being hired to work in the Vatican, but under what are known as ‘religious contracts.’ [P]eople under these contracts end up working for many years, with no benefits, no guaranteed vacation days or no health insurance.” Since a large share of lay employees in the Vatican have these temporary contracts, “there is a ‘general sense of fear’ [that] positions will be vacated and contracts not renewed.”

Perhaps hiring workers under temporary contracts with no benefits was suggested by the official from McKinsey & Co. whom Pope Francis hired in June 2013 “to design the reform of the Curia.” “Anyone who has worked in the corporate milieu knows that the arrival of McKinsey on the scene tends to not be a sign of good news for the rank and file” including “skyrocketing CEO pay and income inequality” for employees, according to Duff McDonald in his book, The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business.

In Vatileaks I, the pope’s valet, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for leaking hundreds of Vatican documents to the journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, and held in a Vatican prison until pardoned by Pope Benedict. However, a network of Vatican employees who had gathered together the documentation which prompted the scandal confirmed what Nuzzi had already said – that there are “more than twenty people linked to the Holy See” who provided the journalist with documents, not just Gabriele. The groups’ purpose: “We thought that making known what was going on in the Curia might be a way to raise public awareness of certain topics. Unleashing a cleaning operation that would lead to transparency…. We tried to help the pope.” What the group wanted was “a Church free, strong and transparent … a Church able to talk again to the faithful. The same faithful that today no longer go to church.” They thought they were “giving an opportunity to his successor to start from scratch.”

In Vatileaks II, Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary for the Prefecture of Economic Affairs, and Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, were found guilty of leaking confidential documents. Vallejo Balda was given a prison sentence of 18 months and Chaouqui, a 10-month suspended sentence for her role in encouraging the leaks. Also indicted and tried for receiving the documents were Fittipaldi, author of Avarice, and Nuzzi, author of Merchants in the Temple. But Fittipaldi “was already informed on some issues” and Nuzzi  “had independent access to the same documents.” (The Vatican court admitted they had no jurisdiction over the journalists. Vallejo Balda’s prison term was later changed to a form of “conditional freedom” and he is no longer in Vatican custody.)

Vatileaks I and II involved documents leaked to the press by seemingly faithful employees.

Pope Francis has called his Vatican employees “the leprosy of the papacy,” an “ill body,” “lords of the manor superior to everyone and everything” and “people who insatiably seek to increase their power and to that end are capable of calumniating, defaming and discrediting others.” He has accused them of  “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” “existential schizophrenia,” “hypocrisy typical of the mediocre,” “progressive spiritual emptiness,” having a “lust for power,” being guilty of “careerism and opportunism,” and cliques that “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body.”

Are verbally-abused employees, outside financial experts and temporary workers with a “general sense of fear” to be more trusted? If not, is the Vatican now more vulnerable to a Vatileaks III?

 

(Betty Clermont’s other blogs on Vatican finance include “The Un-Reformed Vatican,” “With an Estimated 17 Billion in Assets, Pope Francis Creates a Day of the Poor,” “Why a Miscreant like Cardinal Pell is Head of Vatican Finance” and “Pope Francis in Not Anti-Capitalism. By His Actions He Supports the Plutocracy.”)

 

 

 

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7 Responses

  1. Follow the money isn’t quite that easy. It’s in a Byzantine labyrinth and is a more complex maze possible? With a revolving door of players constantly coming and going difficult to determine who is on what base. BC tries to navigate it like no other thus far.
    Goerge Weigel has been making an assertion not mentioned in article. Question if it has any credence or a red herring?
    “There is a new twist to this dirty business, however. Since 2014, Cardinal Pell has been responsible for draining the Vatican financial swamp of corruptions that had become epidemic, ingrained, and virtually institutionalized. Given the stakes and the sleaziness involved, it would not be surprising to learn that some who would be most adversely effected by Pell’s success in Vatican financial reform may have been generating false accusations now in play in the Australian judicial system. Australia, it seems, is not the only place where hardball is played, and in very unsavory forms.”

    • If the quote is from Wills it displays his default position on hierarchical misdeeds, e.g., his assumption the accusations are false. A true historian, if that is what he claims to be, would at least wait for all the evidence before evaluating the truthiness of the accusation.

  2. Thank you both for your learned comments. Accurate statements about Pell’s covering-up and persecution of victims predate 2014 by more than a decade. It is absurd to suggest that Australian victims, members of the royal commission, law enforcement, the judiciary are influenced by “Pell’s success (?) in the Vatican.” Also agree with the latter comment. The evidence will be evaluated by an independent judiciary.

  3. Betty,

    Your blog makes fascinating reading,thank you.

    I read a report into the “trial” of the workers accused of stealing money from the project to renovate Bertone’s flat in AP.

    “Bertone said he paid 300,000 euros of his own money….”.

    Even locally here all the priests have new cars, iPhones etc. Is this the austere church the Pope keeps talking about?

  4. Whew! I have not previously delved into Vatican investments … how depressing – and only paid passing attention to it on the news. Thanks Betty. I don’t know what to do with this … give up? walk away? any attempt at exposure could easily be construed as being “anti-Catholic” and we are already into “anti-christian” … ???

    • Thanks for posting a comment, Yvonne. Yes, I have been banned from a “progressive” website as “anti-Catholic” for presenting factual information about this pontificate although I was applauded and praised for doing the same in the previous pontificate.

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