Pope to appoint new chief to Vatican Bank

Pope Francis, like his predecessor, has been working to clean up the Vatican Bank, which has been plagued with allegations of money laundering and fraud.
By Ananth Baliga  |  July 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM
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VATICAN CITY, July 8 (UPI) -- Pope Francis will appoint a new chief banker to the Vatican Bank, with the bank reporting minimal profits for 2013 as it attempts to clean up its accounts.

The Institute for the Works of Religion, the official name for the Vatican Bank, reported a meager €2.9 million profit for 2013 as compared to a €86.6 million profit in 2012. The drop in profits is a result of the bank cleaning up its accounts and winding up investments before reforms are introduced.

"With the support of the Holy Father and the Council of Cardinals, we are creating simpler, more efficient structures for those serving the mission of the Catholic Church," Cardinal-Prefect George Pell said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.

Pope Francis plans to name a new banker to head the Vatican's finances and bring the bank in line with international standards to prevent fraud and money laundering in its operations.

Ernst von Freiberg was appointed last year by Pope Emeritus Benedict to weed out all suspicious accounts and find misplaced assists based on the bank's holdings. The bank hired outside experts, closed 2,600 "dormant" accounts and stopped doing business with 396 customers who did not fit the bank's standards. A further 359 customer accounts were in the process of being terminated.

The bank reported that had it not shut down accounts and investments profits would have been €70 million.

"I repeatedly said that I would proceed with zero tolerance for any suspicious activity. We have carried out our reforms in this spirit," said Ernst von Freyberg.

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