Vatican City — In what the Vatican bank described as recognition that it has established serious measures to prevent money laundering, it announced the Italian government has promised to return 23 million euros (U.S. $29 million) that had been blocked for more than three years.
Even though the Italian government in 2011 said it was releasing the funds, the Italians believed "issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved" and so held on to the funds, said a statement Tuesday from the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal name of what is commonly called the Vatican bank.
The Italian treasury police seized the funds, which the institute had deposited in a Rome bank, during a money-laundering investigation. The Vatican repeatedly insisted the deposit was legitimate and that the Vatican bank was committed to "full transparency" in its operations.
"The repatriation" of the funds was possible thanks to "the introduction of a fully fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013," Tuesday's statement said.
The morning after the announcement of the money's return, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named the Swiss lawyer Rene Brulhart to be president of the Vatican's Financial Intelligence Agency. Brulhart had served as director of the agency since November 2012.
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He succeeds Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, a canon lawyer and head of the Vatican human resources office; Pope Francis had named the bishop interim president of the agency in January.
The Financial Intelligence Authority monitors the financial and commercial activity of all Vatican entities, including the so-called Vatican bank, to ensure transactions cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.