Vatican City: Pope Francis Wednesday appointed an auditor and Italian banking consultant as president of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog. Carmelo Barbagallo, 63, is a consultant in the areas of banking, financial supervision, and the Single Supervisory Mechanism. He was previously head of the banking and financial supervision department of the Bank of Italy.

The appointment comes as the Vatican’s financial watchdog is struggling to assert its credibility. The previous president of the AIF, René Brüelhart, resigned his position Nov. 18. Although the Vatican press office characterized the departure as the end of “a five-year term,” Brüelhart had not been appointed for a fixed period, and he made it clear he had resigned.

Aboard the papal plane from Tokyo to Rome Nov. 26, Pope Francis confirmed that Di Ruzza is still suspended, despite a press release from the AIF last month that affirmed the agency’s full confidence in him and expressed hope that the matter would be “clarified soon.”

Di Ruzza was suspended because of suspected “bad administration,” the pope said, adding that “it was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence.”

On the papal flight, the pope was also questioned about wider issues facing the AIF, which was recently suspended by the Egmont Group, through which 164 financial intelligence authorities share information and coordinate their work. While the concerns of the Egmont Group were “a bit disturbing,” Francis said, the group is not an official international body and issues of sovereignty had to be considered. “I intend to reassure the international system of financial information that all cooperation will be given in full respect of the best international standards,” he said.

The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee suspicious financial transactions; it is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards. Courtesy: CNA



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