Vatican tribunal hands down first money-laundering verdict

The Vatican's criminal tribunal has convicted an Italian builder of using his accounts in the Vatican bank to launder money, and sentenced him to 2½ years in prison.

The Vatican press office said the Dec. 17 decision, announced Thursday, marked the first time the Vatican court had handed down a money-laundering verdict since the city state criminalized the offense in 2010 as part of its financial reform efforts.

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Italian police had placed Angelo Proietti under house arrest in 2016 as part of an investigation into the alleged fraudulent bankruptcy of his construction firm, Edil Ars Srl, which had done contract work for various Vatican entities.

The Vatican cooperated in the investigation after flagging a suspicious transaction in one of Proietti's Vatican bank accounts in 2013 and seizing 1 million euros. The money was ordered confiscated by the court.

The Vatican held up the verdict as "fundamentally important" in its efforts to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, efforts that were launched in 2009 when the Vatican entered into a monetary agreement with the European Union.

The Vatican overhauled its criminal code and took measures to strengthen the regulatory framework of its bank, the Institute for Religious Works, in a bid to change its reputation as an offshore tax haven where millions of euros could be deposited and withdrawn with hardly a trace.

European experts of the Moneyval anti-money laundering committee have praised the Vatican's reform efforts but have called for more prosecutions.