CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Investigators examining transfers from the Vatican to Australia have been unable to account for around $1.9 million sent between the two countries, local media reported on Wednesday.
Another $5.4 million in Vatican-linked transfers have been identified as being for legitimate expenses, such as travel, wages, and pension payments, The Australian newspaper said on Jan. 20.
Australian authorities have been investigating suspicious transfers from the Vatican to Australia for several months.
Australia’s financial crime watchdog acknowledged earlier in January that it had vastly overestimated the sum of what it said had been 47,000 Vatican transfers.
The Australian newspaper said on Jan. 13 that the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), a government agency, attributed the miscalculation to a “computer coding error.”
After a “detailed review” of its initial finding, AUSTRAC informed Australia’s Senate that its initial finding of $1.8 billion was incorrect, and the real figure amounted to $7.4 million, sent in 362 transfers between 2014 and 2020.
Investigators at AUSTRAC, the Bank of Italy, and the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) — also called the “Vatican bank” — are conducting a joint investigation into the $7.4 million.
After finding that $5.4 million came from legitimate expenses, nearly $2 million still remains to be tracked.
The Australian reported last week that AUSTRAC had also concluded that over the past six years there were 237 transfers totaling $20.6 million in the other direction: from Australia to the Vatican.
The newspaper said that AUSTRAC was, however, continuing to investigate suspicious transfers from the Vatican to Australia.
It added that Australian Federal Police and the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit were investigating four transfers to Australia from the Vatican.
It said that two of the transfers were connected to Cardinal Angelo Becciu. A total of $1.5 million was reportedly sent to a company in Melbourne between 2017 and 2018.
Reports of suspicious money transfers from the Vatican to Australia date back to October when Italian media reported that an alleged transfer was part of a dossier being compiled by Vatican investigators and prosecutors against Becciu.
Becciu resigned from his curial position and gave up his rights as a cardinal on Sept. 24, reportedly in connection with multiple financial scandals dating back to his time as the second-ranking official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or any attempt to influence the trial of Cardinal George Pell, the former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, which began in August 2018.
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