VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In an effort to comply more fully with international standards against financial criminal activity, the Vatican has hired an outside expert in combating money laundering and financing terrorism.
Rene Brulhart, a 40-year-old Swiss international lawyer, started working as a consultant to the Vatican in September on “all matters related to anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism,” Vatican Radio reported Sept. 11.
Brulhart’s “role is to assist the Holy See in strengthening its framework to fight financial crimes,” the broadcast reported.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a written statement that the hire is “a powerful sign of (the Vatican’s) commitment to work in this direction.”
A report by European finance experts released in July said the Vatican had passed its first major test in becoming more financially transparent and compliant with international norms.
But the report by Moneyval — the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism — said there were still critical loopholes that needed tightening and other “important issues” to be addressed.
For example, the committee found the Vatican’s own financial oversight agency, the Financial Information Authority, lacked adequate legal powers and the independence necessary to monitor, inspect and sanction all Vatican agencies and foundations based in Vatican City State that have financial dealings or commercial transactions.
Finding a well-respected, experienced professional was critical because Moneyval’s recommendations “are highly technical elements that require someone with highly technical knowledge,” said a source familiar with the situation.
Father Lombardi characterized Brulhart’s appointment as part of the Vatican’s “renewed efforts to respond to the (Moneyval) report’s recommendations and ever more efficaciously pursue transparency and financial trustworthiness.”
Brulhart is vice-chair of the global Egmont Group network, which brings together national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) that collect and analyze information on suspicious or unusual financial activity, which may then be passed on to law enforcement officials.
He is also head of the Liechtenstein delegation to Moneyval and the coordinator of the Liechtenstein Task Force on Countering the Financing of Terrorism. He served as the deputy director of Lichtenstein’s Financial Intelligence Unit before becoming the director of the country’s FIU in 2004.