ANTI Mafia prosecutors have asked the secretive Vatican Bank todisclose details of an account held by a priest in connection witha money laundering and fraud investigation, it has emerged. The official request was made more than a month ago but so far theVatican Bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, hasrefused to disclose any records of the account held by father NinniTreppiedi – who is currently suspended from serving as apriest. Investigators want to know more about vast sums of money that are said to have passed through his account toestablish if they were money laundering operations by on the run Mafia Godfather, Matteo Messina Denaro. The reports emerged in the Italian media and came just two weeksafter the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, wassacked amid claims of power struggles and corruption within theHoly See which have been linked to the leaking of sensitivedocuments belonging to Pope Benedict XVI. |
More in line with a Dan Brown thriller, it is not the first timethat the Vatican Bank has been embroiled in claims of Mafia moneylaundering. Thirty years ago this month financier Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge with cash andbricks stuffed into his pockets. Initially City of London police recorded the death as suicide butItalian authorities believe it was murder after it emerged Calvi , known as God's Banker because of his links to the Vatican Bank,had been trying to launder millions of pounds of mob money via itsaccounts and through his own Banco Ambrosiano which had collapsedspectacularly. Father Treppiedi, 36, was serving as a priest in Alcamo, nearTrapani, said to be the richest parish on the Mafia's islandstronghold of Sicily , and he was suspended after a series of questionable transactionsof church funds and which has also led to his local bishopFrancesco Micciche being sacked. Trapani prosecutor Marcello Viola made the request six weeks agofor details of the account held by Father Treppiedi at theInstitute of Religious Works to be disclosed but according toreports in Italian media, as yet the go ahead has still not beengiven by the Vatican.
In particular prosecutors are said to be looking at financialtransactions made through Father Treppiedi's account at the VaticanBank between 2007 and 2009 and which came to almost one millioneuros but paperwork explaining the source of the money is said tobe missing. Attention is also focusing on several land and property deals madeby the parish which is in Messina Denaro's heartland in the areaaround Trapani and where he still commands fear and respect. There is speculation that Gotti Tedeschi was aware of the possibleMafia link and was about to name names and police seized paperworkfrom his home which is said to detail his suspicions and which hehad prepared for a handful of trusted sources as he feared his lifewas possible in danger. In a statement prosecutor Viola said:"We have made a request forinformation to the Vatican City State in the spirit of collaboration with regard to aninvestigation into sums of money in financial transactionsundertaken by the Diocese of Trapani." Transactions by the Vatican Bank are already under the spotlightwith leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera saying GottiTedeschi was aware of accounts held by "politicians, shadyintermediaries, contractors and senior (Italian) officials, as wellas people believed to be fronts for Mafia bosses." Of particular interest are said to be property investments andproperty sales that could potentially have been used to disguisemoney transfers and launder money – all this in the light ofreport earlier this year that the Vatican Bank was not completelytransparent in its dealings despite efforts to be so. The latest development comes as prosecutors in the Vatican continueto question the Pope's butler Paolo Gabriele, 46, in connectionwith the leaking of documents which then ended up in a whistleblowing book published by an Italian journalist called HisHoliness.
No-one from the Vatican was immediately available to comment. - Nick Pisa in Rome.
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