The Holy See Press Office announced April 15 that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has appointed a new director and deputy director of the Vatican Financial Information Authority (AIF).
Giuseppe Schlitzer is the new director of the AIF, replacing Tommaso Di Ruzza, who completed his five-year mandate last January 20.
Schlitzer has had experience at Italy’s central bank, at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., and at the General Confederation of Italian Industry.
Federico Antellini Russo is the new deputy director at the AIF, where he has worked since 2015.
Before that, Russo was an economist at joint-stock company Consip and a researcher at Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
Seven months of scandals
Pope Benedict XVI established the AIF in 2010. It oversees Vatican financial intelligence and seeks to prevent and counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Pope Francis further consolidated this Vatican entity in 2013.
But the AIF made headlines around the world last October 1 in the wake of a Vatican police raid on its offices, and also on facilities of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State.
As a result of that sweep, five Vatican employees – including former AIF director Di Ruzza – were suspended and barred from entering the grounds of the Holy See.
On October 23, the AIF board of directors expressed its “full faith and trust in the professional competence and honorability” of Di Ruzza.
That was even though Pope Francis would later say November 26 that the former AIF director had been suspended “because there were suspicions of poor administration”.
On November 13 the Egmont Group, a global network of financial intelligence units, suspended the AIF from its internal systems over concerns about the Vatican raids, only to reinstate the AIF in January this year.
Along with that temporary suspension from the Egmont Group, the October raids on the AIF and the Secretariat of State also cost the AIF the departure in November 2019 of its president, Brülhart.
The Vatican said at the time that Brülhart’s five-year mandate had come to an end, but the Swiss lawyer told the press he had resigned.
Two other AIF directors resigned in protest at Brülhart’s ouster, saying that AIF had become “an empty shell” and that there was “no point” in continuing on as part of the Authority.
This spring, an inspection by the Council of Europe
Seven months after the raids at the Vatican neither Di Ruzza nor the four other workers suspended over the sweep have been charged with any crime, leading to suspicions that the Vatican police operation was a coup to oust officials coming too close to suspicious financial activity in the Holy See.
Di Ruzza and Brülhart were instrumental in obtaining for the Vatican agreements with over 60 countries in the fight against economic and financial malpractice, as well as in rewriting the Holy See’s anti-money-laundering laws.
As their first challenge, new AIF directors Schlitzer and Russo will have to work with AIF president Carmelo Barbagallo in preparing for a spring inspection of the Vatican by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog.
(With information from Vatican News)