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.’
On the first day of 2010 (note: not 1310), Ireland’s new blasphemy law came into effect, making statements about the folly of religion punishable by a 25,000 euro fine. Specifically, the law forbids “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion.” Ireland, yet again, has shown the world the toxic result of religious influence on the state. Fortunately, the Irish specialize in blasphemers as well as zealots; a group called Atheist Ireland is flouting the law by posting on its website 25 quotations selected intentionally to outrage religious sensibilities and daring the authorities to prosecute them. They chose a wide range of blasphemy, which was smart, because the new laws, ironically, are intended to promote tolerance. Blasphemy was already a crime in Irish law; the new legislation merely extends the right not to be offended to people of any faith at all.
Alongside quotes from Frank Zappa about “The Cloud Guy who has The Big Book,” the atheists are promoting attacks on Muslims and even Buddhists, such as Icelandic pop singer Björk’s uncharacteristically hostile comment: “The Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say f–k the Buddhists.”
There’s only one blasphemer on the list of 25 blasphemous quotations that’s deemed worthy of two entries, and he is, of course, the greatest blasphemer of them all: Jesus Christ. Two thousand years after his ministry, if Jesus were to choose Ireland as the spot for his return to Earth, he would be fined ¤25,000. I guess the good news is he wouldn’t be crucified. (You have to take progress where you can find it.) Pope Benedict XVI should probably be careful what he says, though. If he were to repeat the remarks he made at the 2006 Regensburg lecture, in the course of which he quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II’s statement that Muhammad’s teachings are “evil and inhuman,” he might well be subject to prosecution.
Surely the problem with a multicultural blasphemy law will be in its implementation: With so many religious violators, whom should the police fine first? The Irish law stipulates that it is meant to punish only people who are “intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents.” Most atheists don’t care enough to blaspheme. Despite the recent spate of atheistic polemics, from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the rest, we simply don’t have a dog in the fight. Priests, rabbis and imams have to outrage other believers; it’s part of the job description. Muslims are supposed to outrage Christians. Protestants are supposed to outrage Catholics. And they all are supposed to outrage the Jews. Religions are inherently blasphemous against each other, which is exactly why, in successful societies, humanists have managed, through the painful effort of centuries, to kick religion out of government.
Religion is creeping back by any means it can find. The same week that the Irish government redefined blasphemy, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard managed to survive an assault in his house by a Somali man wielding an axe and knife. The assailant wouldn’t have had to attack if they had both been living in Ireland. Rather than being apprehended by the police, the assassin could have contacted them; Westergaard, and not his intended killer, would be the criminal in Ireland.
Religious tolerance has been confused with respect. How can you legislate that people not only put up with other people’s beliefs but validate them? What about new religions? Are they entitled to the same protections? What about people with private religions, i.e., the insane? What about people who believe in gnomes and fairies, an ancient religious tradition? Is it blasphemous to claim that the woods are not possessed by magical spirits? What if you work for the department of forestry? What if you insult little girls’ imaginary friends?
Another problem with the new Irish law is that the truth itself is blasphemous. It’s hard to report the events of the past two decades without “intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents.” The Irish government reported that the Dublin diocese of the Catholic Church tolerated “endemic sexual abuse” and sheltered more than 170 pedophile priests from justice for decades. Could you make a more damning statement about any religious group? The Pope goes to AIDS-ravaged Africa and tells people not to use condoms. He welcomes Holocaust-deniers into the priesthood. He commences the process for turning Hitler’s Pope into a saint. No atheist needs to make stuff up. What’s more blasphemous to the Catholic Church than the newspaper?
Religion is trying to make a comeback into the public sphere through the back door, not by insisting on intolerance, but by demanding a respect that it’s done nothing to earn. Fortunately, there will always be blasphemers to stand in the way.
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.
A 13-year-old boy with cancer who fled the state with his mother to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy has returned, Minnesota officials said today.
The arrest warrant issued for Daniel Hauser’s mother Colleen while they were on the run have been quashed, Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said at a press conference, but he would not discuss whether she might still face any charges.
On Sunday, Jennifer Keller, an attorney from Irvine, Calif., contacted the New Ulm Sheriff’s Department to let them know that Colleen and Daniel Hauser were ready to return to Minnesota.
“They were ready to come home,” Hoffman said, when asked why the mother and son had decided to end their flight. He declined to say where the two had been in the six days they were missing.
Daniel was immediately checked over by medical authorities upon his return today, Hoffman said, but he wouldn’t comment on the boy’s medical condition.
A federal arrest warrant had been issued for Colleen Hauser after she and Daniel left Minnesota May 19. The search for the pair had focused on Southern California, where they were reportedly spotted at least once, and Mexico, where it was suspected they might have gone to seek alternative treatments.
Doctors say Daniel has a cancerous tumor growing in his chest that is likely to kill him if he does not receive additional chemotherapy, but his family has said they prefer natural healing methods.
The U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI filed federal criminal charges Friday against Colleen Janet Hauser for fleeing with her son Daniel to avoid giving him chemotherapy for his cancer.
The federal criminal complaint noted that Hauser and her son flew on Sun Country Airlines from Minnesota to Los Angeles on May 19. The felony charge of fleeing from the state of Minnesota to avoid prosecution for deprivation of parental rights has been quashed.
The case became an international manhunt with Interpol being notified and U.S. Marshals being deployed to Mexico from the San Diego Field Office and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
According to one source, the marshals and Mexican law enforcement officers were in Tijuana looking for Hauser and her son before their return to Minnesota.
Anthony Hauser, the father of the Minnesota teenager, had made a desperate plea for his son to return with his mother for court-ordered cancer chemotherapy treatment .
Standing at his Sleepy Eye, Minn., farm, Anthony Hauser last week had pleaded with his wife to come home “so we can decide as a family what Danny’s treatment should be.”
Did Mom Flee Out of Fear?
Authorities had said they believed Hauser and Daniel, were in Mexico — or trying to get there — to seek alternative treatments for the teen who suffers from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hauser has said that he believes his wife saw X-rays of Daniel that made her scared and prompted her to flee.
“I know you’re scared and I feel that you left out of fear, maybe without thinking it all the way through,” Hauser said.
Authorities had promised Colleen Hauser in a May 21 press conference that they would not take law enforcement action if she showed “a good faith effort” to come back.
Colleen and Daniel Hauser were spotted in Southern California Tuesday morning, according to the Brown County Sheriff’s office, who said it was “reliable information” that has led them to believe the duo headed to Mexico to seek alternative cancer treatment.
The two had disappeared after a court rejected the boy’s request to refuse chemotherapy treatment for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease. Doctors said they believe Daniel will die without the treatment.
The Hausers have said that they would prefer a less rigid chemotherapy treatment combined with other alternative treatments.
The family is Roman Catholic and believes in the “do no harm” philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods.