12-August-2013 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Pope Strengthens Financial Crimes Laws, Oversight Body

(http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=27845)

ROME, ITALY, August 8 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Pope Francis has issued a declaration that increases the power of the Financial Information Authority and continues the Vatican's efforts to update its statutes that prevent money laundering.

The purpose of this motu proprio is "strengthening the Vatican's work to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism," René Brülhart, director of the Financial Information Authority, told CNA Aug. 8.

Specifically, the motu proprio says that Brülhart's office will exercise "prudential supervision" over all Vatican organizations that "perform professional activity of a financial nature."

By taking that step, the Pope both confirmed and extended the power of the Financial Information Authority, said Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi in an Aug. 8 interview with Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis also brings the Vatican into line with a July 2012 evaluation made by Moneyval, the Council of Europe's committee for fighting money laundering, which recommended the change.

The declaration extends the Authority's reach by placing the numerous Vatican departments and all non-profits that have legal status in Vatican City under its supervision.

The final innovation of the Pope's motu proprio - a Latin phrase that means "on his own initiative" - is the creation of a group called the Financial Security Committee.

"The role of this new committee is exclusively coordination and it doesn't change the competence of the AIF at all," Brülhart explained, referring to the Financial Information Authority by its Italian acronym.

The committee is composed of top officials from the Vatican's Secretariat of State, the Vatican City government, the city-state's promoter of justice, and the head of the Financial Information Authority.

Monsignor Peter Brian Wells, the Assistant Secretary of State for General Affairs and the highest-ranking American official in the Vatican State department will chair the committee.

It will meet every four months and is tasked with agreeing on internal procedures for assessing the risk of money laundering or the financing of terrorism, promoting the active collaboration between Vatican bodies, and soliciting experts' advice and studies.

On a more lighthearted note, Brülhart, who will serve as the committee's secretary, clarified that although the title of the motu proprio mentions preventing the financing of weapons of mass destruction, it is simply a reference to the terminology of the international statutes that have been created to combat money laundering.

"No, the Vatican is not worried about somehow financing WMD," he said.

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