A £19million money laundering scandal rocked the Vatican today – just days after Pope Benedict XVI’s successful visit to Britain.
Police said the Vatican Bank’s chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who is known to the Pontiff, was under investigation for suspected failure to observe money-laundering laws.
The probe was launched after tax police in Rome were alerted to two suspicious transactions totaling £19million (23million euro).
Officers said another bank official – named by Italian media as director general Paolo Cipriani – was also being investigated.
A statement from the Vatican appeared to confirm this – it said it was ‘perplexed’ by the investigation but had ‘full faith in chairman and director general.’
A statement read: ‘The Holy See manifests puzzlement and amazement at the initiative by the Rome prosecutor’s office, given that the necessary information is already available at the relevant office of the Bank of Italy, and similar transactions commonly take place with other Italian banks.’
God’s Banker Roberto Calvi, 62, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982 with $15,000 in banknotes and bricks stuffed into his pockets.
At first his death was treated by City of London police as suicide but Italian counterparts were suspicious and the case was reopened with five people being charged with his murder.
They went on trial in 2007 and among them was jailed Godfather Pippo Calo, already serving life and who gave his evidence via a video link to the court – which was held in a bunker at Rome’s top security Rebibbia jail.
The court heard from a series of Mafia supergrasses that Calo ordered Calvi’s murder after he bungled a £150m money-laundering operation.
Calvi had fled to London to try and escape the Mafia but they tracked him down to a flat in Chelsea where he was hiding. He was duped by his killers into thinking they were taking him via the River Thames to a container ship bound for South America but instead he was murdered.
The five were all cleared of murder at the original trial and a later appeal but a fresh one has been launched by prosecutors in Rome against them and they remain convinced Calvi was murdered.
The £19million was impounded as a precautionary measure.
Rome prosecutors Nello Rossi and Stefano Rocco Fava opened their investigation earlier this year to see whether a 2007 law passed in Italy calling on transparency of accounts had been breached.
Alarm bells rang over two suspicious transactions involving a 20million euro transfer to the German bank J.P.Morgan Frankfurt and three million sent to a central-Italian bank, Banca del Fucino.
Prosecution sources said the investigation was to see if the bank had breached regulations for failing to reveal the identity of the person holding the accounts.
They are trying to discover the beneficiaries of cheques and bank drafts issued from the Vatican Bank accounts and who ordered them.
It is not the first time the bank, known as the Istituto per le Opere Religiose, has been implicated in money laundering – in 1982 it was linked to the £2billion collapse of another bank, Credito Ambrosiano.
Then governor Archbishop Paul Marcinkus escaped investigation by claiming Vatican immunity but in a twist worthy of a Dan Brown blockbuster, Ambrosiano’s president Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge.
Calvi was known as God’s Banker because of his connections to Marcinkus and the Vatican Bank.
His death was initially ruled as suicide but then became murder after further investigation.
He was found with bundles of cash and stones in his pockets. Italian police believe he was killed by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering scam.
American Archbishop Marcinkus died in 2006, taking the secret of what happened in 1982 to the grave and never fully explaining his involvement with Calvi. He famously once said: ‘You can’t run the Church on Hail Mary’s.’
BOSTON — Attorney Ray Boucher helped secure a record $660 million settlement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese on behalf of more than 500 people molested by priests. Five days after the settlement was announced, his wife left him.
Eric MacLeish, the hard-charging lawyer whose work for victims helped spur the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002, later suffered a breakdown, stopped practicing law and got divorced.
And Steve Rubino, once such an observant Catholic he couldn’t believe a priest would molest a child, lost his faith and eventually retired from the law.
“It moved me completely out of whatever religious context I was in — completely,” he said.
The sex scandal that rocked the nation’s Roman Catholic Church took a fearsome personal toll on some of the top lawyers who dared to challenge the institution.
While many of them ultimately reaped large fees for their services, the all-consuming workload, the pressure of battling the church and the stress of listening to graphic accounts of children’s suffering were debilitating.
“No one can handle these cases and come out of it the same,” said Sylvia Demarest, a lawyer who helped win a $119.6 million verdict against the Diocese of Dallas in 1997 and later built a national database on clergy sex abuse cases.
Demarest, now semiretired, said she grew frustrated with her inability to heal the wounds suffered by her clients. “What happens to kids when they’re abused and what happens to their brains when they are abused is something that we don’t know how to fix,” she said.
The crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, after internal church documents released publicly showed that church leaders for decades had shuffled sexually abusive priests from parish to parish. The scandal spread across the country as thousands of lawsuits were filed by people who claimed they had been victimized.
For MacLeish, the clergy cases reawakened memories of being sexually abused as a child.
MacLeish and other lawyers won an $85 million settlement in Boston in 2003 for more than 500 victims. But in the months after the landmark settlement was announced, MacLeish began to unravel. He developed insomnia and nausea, lost 40 pounds and couldn’t work.
He was rattled by the image of a 9-year-old boy who was repeatedly sodomized over nine hours by a priest. The boy buried his bloody underwear so his mother wouldn’t find out.
“The idea of him going off into the woods and burying his underwear, that really got to me,” MacLeish said.
MacLeish had been sexually abused by a family friend during a camping trip at 15. And he had memories of being molested at an English boarding school he attended as a boy.
“I began to realize why I had been doing this work and how much my own abuse had affected me,” he said. He said his pursuit of the church “was absolutely never about money.” He added: “The wealth I received was the knowledge that I had really helped my clients and helped to change the Catholic Church.”
Rubino, who retired last year after more than 20 years of representing clergy sex-abuse victims, was incredulous after a family friend came to him in 1987 and said a priest had sexually assaulted her 14-year-old son.
“I said, `Well, that’s impossible. Priests are celibate. What are you talking about?'” recalled Rubino, who grew up in a large Italian Catholic family.
Rubino, whose law office was in Margate City, N.J., spent the next 15 years becoming a canon law expert. He traveled all over the U.S and to Ireland, Canada and Australia to represent victims and help other lawyers. Story after story of abuse left Rubino disheartened about the Catholic Church.
“I was a true believer. I said my Hail Marys, my Act of Contrition, I learned Latin, I served Mass, I believed in God,” he said. “I don’t do any of that now.”
At the height of the scandal, Rubino was working 16- to 20-hour days and traveling constantly. His wife and three children resented it. “While I was (home), I was never there,” he said. “I was a second away from the next text, the next e-mail, the next phone call from a client.”
Rubino’s marriage survived, but Boucher’s did not. Boucher’s wife left him right after the 2007 settlement in Los Angeles.
“She just said, `Look, you’re on top of the world, the press is surrounding you, I haven’t accomplished what I want to accomplish in life, and I just don’t feel like I can stay with you,'” Boucher said. (Boucher’s ex-wife, Christine Roberts, declined to comment.)
Before that, Boucher had plowed through hundreds of cases in Los Angeles, and mostly managed to “box it up and store it away.” But, at times, the enormity of the pain caused by the abuse was overwhelming.
In 2004, Boucher was editing DVDs of victims describing how they were raped or otherwise molested by a priest. He saw a pile of about 150 DVDs ready to be mailed to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. Each DVD cover had a picture of the victim as a child, as they were when they were assaulted.
“I was stunned. I looked at them, and I’m sure I started to cry,” Boucher recalled. “I will never lose that image.”
MacLeish’s marriage also ended in divorce. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he began seeing a psychologist. Within two months, they were sleeping together and their affair led to his divorce, MacLeish said.
MacLeish, now a professor who teaches civil rights and criminal procedure at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, said he doesn’t regret the work he did, despite the toll it took on him and his family.
“There is not one case that I’ve heard of since 2004 where a known pedophile has been placed by the church into an organization where he would be able to do it again,” he said.
Rubino, 61, now spends time with his family and works as chief executive of a sports performance training center for kids. Rubino said it is a respite from the work he used to do.
“For the hundreds of damaged young lives I represented, the kids at (the center) are at the opposite end of the spectrum,” he said.
Boucher, 53, continues to represent victims.
“I can’t imagine walking away from people who are suffering from the isolation of sexual abuse,” he said. “I don’t know how — no matter what the personal, emotional toll might be — I don’t know how you walk away from that.”
ROME – A probe has been opened by Rome magistrates to determine whether the Vatican bank, the Istituto Opere di Religione (IOR), violated Italian laws against money laundering.
The probe is focusing on one or more accounts IOR opened with Unicredit, Italy’s biggest bank, through which some 60 million euros transited over the past three years.
In particular, the investigation will seek to verify whether a 2007 Italian law on transparency in regard to the identity of the account holder or executor was violated.
The possibility that the Vatican accounts violated this law was brought forward by the Bank of Italy special ‘financial intelligence’ unit which passed the information to the Finance Guard which, in turn, forwarded the case to the Rome justice department.
Judicial sources said the probe is currently centered on clarifying the “opaque screen” which hid the identity of the person, persons or organizations that had actual control over the IOR accounts.
Investigators are also trying to discover the beneficiaries of checks and bank drafts issued from the IOR accounts and who ordered them. The accounts were opened at a branch of Unicredit, then Banca di Roma, located on the avenue which leads into St Peter’s Square, via della Conciliazione, in Italian territory.
Thanks to kchiu for the submission.
The Church of Scientology says allegations made in Federal Parliament by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon are an abuse of parliamentary privilege.
Senator Xenophon used a speech in Parliament last night to raise allegations of widespread criminal conduct within the church, saying he had received letters from former followers detailing claims of abuse, false imprisonment and forced abortion.
He says he has passed on the letters to the police and is calling for a Senate inquiry into the religion and its tax-exempt status.
“I am deeply concerned about this organisation and the devastating impact it can have on its followers,” he told the Senate.
A spokeswoman for the church, Virginia Stewart, says she is shocked to hear Senator Xenophon’s claims, as no-one within the church seems disgruntled.
“If these people had key issues, then how come they haven’t contacted the church officially?” she said.
“We actually have an entire section that responds to people. So if someone has a complaint about the church, we really are so happy to meet with them.”
Ms Stewart says the church tried to contact Senator Xenophon earlier this year after he spoke about Scientology on television.
“We offered to meet with him, to be completely open, answer any of his questions,” she said.
“He didn’t even bother to reply so I think it’s a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in Parliament, where they can say whatever they want.
“He hasn’t even spoken with us before, and we have attempted to speak with him.”
Senator Xenophon told Parliament the Church of Scientology was a criminal organisation that hides behind its “so-called religious beliefs”.
“Do you want Australian tax exemptions to be supporting an organisation that coerces its followers into having abortions? Do you want to be supporting an organisation that defrauds, that blackmails, that falsely imprisons?” he asked.
“Because on the balance of evidence provided by victims of Scientology you probably are.
“The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses that are truly shocking.
“These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive, manipulative and violent organisation.”
Thanks to JT Hundley for this submission.
The Kansas City man charged with assassinating abortion doctor George Tiller in his church a week ago warned Sunday that more violence is coming.
“I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal,” Scott Roeder said in one of two phone calls to the Associated Press from prison.
He also complained about the “deplorable conditions in solitary,” worried about catching pneumonia because his cell was cold and said he needed his sleep apnea machine.
Tiller, 67, one of only three American doctors who performed late abortions on women with deformed fetuses, was gunned down inside his Wichita church as he chatted with a fellow usher about taking his grandkids to Disney World.
He had been targeted for years by anti-abortion protesters and demonized as “Tiller the baby killer” by conservative TV pundits. He often wore body armor – but not to church.
Roeder, 51, a mentally ill, unemployed anti-abortion activist from Kansas City, Mo., was charged with first-degree murder.
On Friday, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Roeder, who had enough money to stalk Tiller for years despite having little or no income, had help from accomplices.
Anyone who played a role in the killing will be prosecuted “to the full extent of federal law,” said Loretta King, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
A funeral was held Saturday for Tiller at Wichita’s large Methodist church to accommodate crowds that would not fit in his own, the Reformation Lutheran Church.
The funeral was protected by 50 American Legion Riders who roared up on motorcycles and formed a shield around Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita to honor Tiller’s Navy service.
Many wept when Tiller’s wife of 40 years, Jeanne, stood before the gathering and sang “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Dr. Warren Hern, a Colorado late-term abortion provider who was Tiller’s friend and who fears he may be the next target, was one of the pallbearers.
This morning, worshippers who watched Tiller die filled the pews at Reformation Lutheran to pray for him.
A few minutes after 10 a.m., exactly one week after Tiller was shot, the congregation began to pray: “Oh God, we are consumed by grief for what we have witnessed in our community. Come to our aid, walk with us, hold us, strengthen us and give us courage for the days ahead.”
Protesters from Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, known for picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, held signs and shouted outside the sanctuary.