The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as “the Vatican Bank,” with a long history of implication in money laundering scandals involving funds from the Italian Fascist government of Mussolini, the looting of the Croatian treasury at the end of World War II, the smuggling and laundering of funds belonging to concentration camp victims and prisoners, and decades of close working relationships with Italian organized crime, is back in the news.
This time, events have put the Vatican, technically a sovereign state, on its heels, as, for the first time, the Italian government has blocked Vatican accounts apparently involved in illegal transfers and laundering.
Over the decades, there have been hundreds of allegations, investigations, and more than a few murders related to the murky netherworld of the Vatican’s oft-alleged dealings with organized crime and unsavory ultra-right wing financiers involved in funding death squads in Latin America, but this is the first time the Italian government has ever actually stepped in to block illegal Vatican transactions.
A new day? It’s certainly too early to know. Previous Italian governments have moved to investigate the criminal operations alleged against the Institute but in most cases, they’ve been subverted, coopted, suppressed, or just cut off at the knees.
We’ll have to see if this really is different.