Vatican Bank seeks damages in Maltese court

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The Vatican Bank has started legal proceedings in Malta against what it said were  “various third parties deemed liable of having caused significant damages” in connection with “certain investment transactions” in which it had been involved.

Details about the case were first revealed today in a statement issued by the Vatican’s press office, which was quickly picked up by a number of  Maltese publications and other media organisations.

The Times of Malta quoted a Vatican spokesperson as saying that the matter dated back to the beginning of 2013, and reportedly involved investments initially worth €17m (£15.2m, US$20.1m).

“However, the damages have to be quantified by the Maltese courts,” the Times of Malta report added.

In its statement, the Holy See said: “In the past few days, the Institute for the Works of Religion (or IOR, as the Vatican Bank is formally known) started a civil action before the competent Maltese judicial authorities against various third parties deemed liable of having caused significant damages to IOR in connection with certain investment transactions in which it participated.

“This initiative confirms IOR’s commitment, in the interest of transparency, to report to the competent authorities any potential abuses perpetrated against it and to take, as in this instance, any appropriate action to protect its financial and reputational interests, including outside of the Vatican City State.”

According to the Times of Malta, the Vatican bank took its action “against four companies and two individuals”, the names of which it didn’t reveal. Two of the companies have Maltese directors, the ToM added.

Since the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the IOR is reported to have closed thousands of accounts as part of a major clean-up effort. The bank’s main purpose to look after Vatican employees, church officials, the church’s charitable works and its global army of priests and nuns, but it has been dogged by money laundering and tax evasion claims dating back decades.

In 2015 it signed a major agreement with the Italian government which involved an agreement to share financial and tax information, and which was seen at the time as evidence of Pope Francis’s intention of cleaning it up.

To read the Times of Malta’s report on the Vatican Bank case on its website in full, click here.