Relax, this post is not about some kind of conspiracy neither about the abdication of Joseph Ratzinger. Maybe we will talk about it but not today.
Have you ever heard about a bank named IOR? The acronym stands for “Istituto per le Opere di Religione” that can be translated as “Institute for the Religious Organizations”. It’s the national bank for the Holy See and one of the most exclusive financial institution in the world. Exclusive AND elusive at the same time. While the number of bank accounts is quite low, no more than 40.000, less than a quarter can be associated to known people. The most part is related to encrypted names.
From here the suspect of money laundering practices but it’s just the surface of the problem. This bank operates thru a network of other financial institutes, such as Deutsche Bank, Nomura, Unicredit and many other big players to assure the current funding operations of all the branches of the Holy See worldwide. It’s quite difficult to understand if all this money is legitimate or not. In almost every country where the roman catholic church exists they mantain a lot of companies, active in a variety of economic sectors.
In the ‘70s and in the ‘80s a number of undercover operations has been financied in this way. And the provenience of such funds are unknown most of the times. Need an example? Think about Poland, where former president of the State, Lech Walesa, told to the press about millions of USD used to finance the “Solidarnosc” workers union. Money given from the USA thru the Holy See, veiculated by IOR under the nose of USSR authorities. Similar circumstancies apply for other countries like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, former Yugoslavia.
Other operations has been suggested by the press in the last four decades. Money to and from dictators like Strossner in Paraguay, the military junta from Argentina, Marcos family from Philippines, Noriega from Panama to name some. Italian detectives discovers a number of bribes and off-the-book payments, related to major scandals, veiculated through IOR and associated banks. It’s widely believed that funds from organized crime cartels (Mafia, Camorra, ‘ndrangheta) have been transferred in and out Italy thru IOR.
OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, put the Holy See in the “grey list” for all the reasons described above and, of course, for the lack of changes in the attitude of the bank in the information exchange with international authorities. For a nation like the Holy See, the only teocracy in the world today, is quite strange to be associated with known tax havens like Cayman Islands. But the story doesn’t end here. Because with a lot ofl this money has been invested worldwide, in a lot of strange places…