What we need and what we got

Italy is in the middle of a huge economic crisis, it’s on the top of a 200+ billion euro national debt, it’s at the very bottom of all international economic charts when it comes to growth. To be all clear, we’re facing a major disaster here. A disaster that will not be limited by our borders since we’re still a pillar in the European Union and a key country in the economic world scene. Got the first picture?

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Look what the cat dragged in!

The celebrations held in Roma for the new Pope usually drive a large number of VIPs in town, nothing unusual giving the political weight of the Holy See and its relative importance on the religious side (there are a bit more than one billion of christians worldwide). Nowadays for Pope Francis we got the same old show running around, with thousand of journalist everywhere and scores of incoming VIPs all around.

It’s one hell of a political photo opportunity, a way to be seen from billions. Useful for the likes of Joe Biden, the american VP who still hopes for a chance in 2016, for leaders in a desperate search for public approval like Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and many others. Now, look at his man. Do you who is?

mugabe

No less than Robert Gabriel Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, who’s under a travel-ban in Europe with an exception for Un-related events (like the FAO meeting in Rome some years ago). Italy has been forced to admit Mugabe inside the country for the lack of a Holy See-operated airport. The Holy See in not in the EU and Italy got an allegation (named “concordato”) to operate as hub for the visitors in going or outgoing Vatican City.

Zimbabwe can be described as a catholic country, that’s for sure, but the opportunity of the presence of Mr. Mugabe raise a lot of question inside and outside the limits of Vatican City. For a Pope like Francis who’s setting up the milestones of his papacy could be quite embarrassing to face a first-class criminal like Mr. Mugabe. It will be also a problem for the diplomats of the Holy See to keep him away from the european and american dignitaries.

Under the shadows of the Holy See

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.

16-ior.eps

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.

vt-map

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…