Mysterious Vatican Bank Probed For Mysterious Money Laundering

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Would you ... heh heh ... like to ... open an account with us?Prosecutors have frozen $30 million in sketchy Vatican Bank money that was transferred in a dubious fashion to secret accounts at J.P. Morgan in Germany and the Banca del Fucino in Italy. The pope's bank -- officially known as the "Institute for Religious Works," because that's a very ridiculous name for a bank -- is led by chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and director general Paolo Cipriani, who are both under investigation for money laundering. Is there any crime Vatican officials don't regularly commit?


The Los Angeles Times reports:

The Vatican, already battered by a scandal over priestly sexual abuse, expressed "puzzlement and amazement" at the allegations and said it was committed to financial transparency.

Ha ha, sure, whatever. Gotti Tedeschi is, obviously, a member of the far-right wingnut Catholic cult "Opus Dei," which manufactures cloned monk-monsters to kill people in crappy Dan Brown books, so there is nothing freaky or conspiratorial about him.

The Vatican Bank is probably best known for its evil scheming in Central America through make-believe front companies, back in the Reagan Years of constant trickery and intrigue in Latin America. Here's how TIME teased the story in 1982:

Two suicides, both of which could conceivably be murder. As much as $1.2 billion in unsecured loans. The failure of Italy's huge Banco Ambrosiano, which has left more than 200 international financial institutions holding the bag for millions in loans. A scandal that has threatened the stability of the entire international banking system and has begun to bring about subtle changes in the way the world's major banks do business. A secret plot to undermine the government of Italy and to change the shape of politics in several Latin American countries.

Even if these were the only ingredients, the story would still be intriguing enough for a Robert Ludlum thriller. But an added element is making the scandal that has rocked the world of international finance one of the most compelling real-life mysteries of the century: the involvement of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (I.O.R.), better known as the Vatican bank.

The star of the story was Roberto Calvi of the notorious P2 Lodge, who was "found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge, his toes just touching the surface of the muddy Thames. The dead man's pockets contained some $13,000 in various currencies, as well as 12 lbs. of bricks and stones." Calvi had been director of the Banco Ambrosiano and known as "God's Banker" for his close ties with the Vatican and that other famous crime organization from Italy, the Mafia. [BBC/Vancouver Sun]

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