Prosecutor says Vatican experiencing growth in cross-border crime

Vatican City — The Vatican has not been untouched by the growing phenomenon of identity theft, drug trafficking, child pornography and people crossing international borders to launder money, said the Vatican's chief prosecutor.

Opening the new judicial year Jan. 30, Gian Piero Milano, the Vatican's chief prosecutor, presented a report on criminal activity and the court's work in 2014.

"Vatican City State has gone from being a little enclave in Italy to a participant in an international community increasingly marked by the globalization not only of culture, but also of criminal practices," he said.

Although he did not present details on the cases, he mentioned the Vatican gendarmes working with other police forces in a failed attempt to spring a trap on someone using the Vatican post office to smuggle drugs. Unfortunately, he said, a newspaper reported on the operation before it was complete, and no one ever came to collect the illegal drugs.

The Vatican police and the Italian finance police, working together, were able to prevent a case of defrauding the Vatican bank planned by a European citizen, he said. Vatican police also are carrying out investigations related to two cases of possession of child pornography; the court ordered the arrest of the two people involved.

In addition, Milano said, the Vatican police blocked access to websites with "defamatory content" about the Vatican and closed an email account apparently being used for "virtual identity theft."

In the case of Jozef Wesolowski, the laicized former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Milano said the criminal investigation -- which is different from the canonical trial conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- is continuing into allegations he sexually abused boys while in the Caribbean nation as a Vatican official.

The term that Vatican law allows for house arrest has expired, but Wesolowski has been prohibited from leaving Vatican City State while the criminal investigation against him continues.

Money laundering is a huge international problem and one that has not left the Vatican untouched, Milano said, but thanks to legal reforms instituted by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the Vatican has strong countermeasures in place. Financial transactions are monitored by the Financial Intelligence Authority which, in 2014, informed the court of five suspicious cases.

Of the more than 7,700 inspections carried out on vehicles entering or leaving Vatican City, he said, about 2,000 were "in virtue of the norms related to transparency, the transport of currency and to prevent the crimes of money laundering and the financing of terrorism."

Because "many criminal activities today use telecommunications," he said, the Vatican also needs to revise its laws and procedures to allow monitoring of Internet traffic and wiretapping phones, both to improve criminal investigations as well as to allow place the Vatican police on an equal footing with the police forces they work with in investigating cross-border crimes.

Turning to the court's civil section, he said they registered 170 marriages in Vatican City, 94 people were granted citizenship, eight were granted residency and 16 deaths were registered.

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