The Council of Europe’s top financial watchdog has called on the Vatican to ensure transparency in procedures to prosecute senior clerics, and further bolster reform initiatives to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing.

In a report published on Wednesday, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (or Moneyval) noted that high-profile cases had raised red flags about potential abuse of the Holy See’s internal systems for personal gain or other benefits by mid-level and senior insiders.

The report highlighted a number of such instances, particularly the conviction in January of Angelo Caloia, a former head of the Institute for Works of Religion (the Vatican bank), and two others for embezzlement and money laundering after a three-year trial that followed a five-year probe.

Caloia, who presided over the bank between 1999 and 2009, is the highest ranking Vatican official to be convicted of a financial crime to date.

While mostly commending Vatican authorities for their compliance and “understanding of risk,” the report noted their failure to address such instances of abuse – which raises “some concerns as to the degree to which these matters are formally recognized and acknowledged by all authorities.”

“The authorities have advised that they consider the risk of abuse of office for personal or other benefits presented by insiders and related money laundering to be low,” the report noted, adding that the Moneyval assessment team disagreed with this conclusion.

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Furthermore, the report noted that money laundering investigations during Moneyval’s review period (till October 2020) had been “protracted” in part due to “under-resourcing” among the prosecutorial and law enforcement ranks and “insufficient” specialized financial investigators. (RT)