Bank of Italy Suspends Vatican Debit, Credit Card Payments

Friday, 04 Jan 2013 06:47 AM


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The Bank of Italy suspended electronic payments in the Vatican City because the papal state doesn’t comply with international money laundering rules.

The central bank found in an inspection in 2010 that Deutsche Bank AG’s Italian unit, which had been operating the papal state’s point-of-service payment services since 1997, didn’t have the authorization to operate in the Vatican City, a Bank of Italy official said. The central bank on Dec. 6 refused a permit request to Deutsche Bank SpA because the Vatican lacks required banking and financial legislation, the official said. A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman for Italy declined to comment.

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 Payments through credit and debit cards through one electronic-payment provider in the Vatican City were suspended on Jan. 1 as authorities are trying to find another bank provider, the Vatican press office said in a statement yesterday. The interruption to electronic payment services will be “brief,” the Vatican said. Cash withdrawals from machines operated by the Vatican bank IOR are not affected, a Vatican spokesman, who declined to be named, said.

The interruption affects Vatican museums, which had sales of 91.3 million euros ($118.9 million) in 2011 and more than 5 million visitors, according to a spokeswoman for the museums.

Money Laundering

Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s monitoring body for money laundering and terrorism financing, said last year the Vatican is making progress in complying with international standards on financial transparency, though more work needs to be done. The body’s recommendations are used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to decide whether a nation should be included on the so-called white list of countries complying with international standards on financial transparency.

In the report Moneyval also recommended that the Vatican bank should be independently supervised. The IOR has been at the center of several financial scandals in recent years. Paolo Cipriani, director general of the IOR, and its former head, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, were placed under investigation by Italian prosecutors in 2010 for allegedly omitting data in wire transfers from an Italian account.

Prosecutors seized 23 million euros from a Rome bank account registered to the IOR amid suspicion or money-laundering violations. The Italian probe triggered calls to bring the city- state in line with European Union financial rules and become more transparent.

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