Would like to take a moment to talk about one of the most obscure and hidden secrets of my country. Since I always post pictures of how beautiful Rome is, I figured it’s time to share part of the not so “shining”history of Italy, that is far from being widely known.
“The Istituto per le Opere di Religione was founded on 27 June 1942 by Pope Pius XII. It absorbed the Amministrazione delle Opere di Religione (Administration of the Works of Religion), which had originated in the Commission for Works of Charity (Commissione ad pias causas) established by Pope Leo XIII on 11 February 1887.
It has always been distinct from what has become the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which instead of administering funds destined for works of charity, manages the funds remaining at the disposal of the Pope after the complete loss of the Papal States in 1870 and those that were part of the settlement of the Roman Question by the Lateran Pacts of 1929.
The purpose of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione is “to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons and intended for works of religion or charity”.
The Institute is a successful and profitable bank. By the 1990s, the IOR had invested over US$10 billion in foreign companies. In 1968 Vatican authorities hired Michele Sindona as a financial advisor, despite Sindona’s questionable past. It was Sindona who was chiefly responsible for the massive influx of money when he began laundering the Gambino crime family’s heroin money (taking a 50% cut) through a shell corporation “Mabusi”. This laundering was accomplished with the help of another banker, Roberto Calvi, who managed the Banco Ambrosiano. Both Calvi and Sindona were members of the P2 Lodge.
When Pope John Paul I became Pope in 1978 he was informed of allegations of wrongdoing at the Institute for Works of Religion, and instructed Jean-Marie Villot, Cardinal Secretary of State and head of the papal Curia, to investigate the matter thoroughly. John Paul died after only 33 days in office, raising suspicion that he had been murdered after discovering a scandal. It is generally accepted that the pope died of natural causes, although some medical experts suspect a pulmonary embolism or an adverse reaction to medication he was taking, rather than the heart attack reported in original press accounts of his death.
 Banco Ambrosiano scandal
The Institute for Works of Religion was Banco Ambrosiano’s main share-holder. Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the IOR from 1971 to 1989, was indicted in Italy in 1982 as an accessory in the $3.5 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, one of the major post-war financial scandals. Banco Ambrosiano was accused of laundering drug money for the Sicilian Mafia, led by Filippo Barbagli, which used Propaganda Due (“P2”), a mobbed up Masonic lodge, as an intermediary. P2 and its Worshipful Master, Licio Gelli, were also involved in financing right wing terror groups during the 1970s. As for Archbishop Marcinkus, he would never come to trial in Italy, where courts ruled that he possessed diplomatic immunity. He lived in retirement in Sun City, Arizona (US) until his death on February 21, 2006.
The Institute for Works of Religion has denied having legal responsibility for the Ambrosiano’s downfall but did acknowledge “moral involvement”, and paid $241m (£169m) to creditors. As of 2006, investigations are continuing concerning the murder of Ambrosiano’s chairman, Roberto Calvi, which, according to Ernest Backes, former #3 of Clearstream, may have been linked to the death of Gérard Soisson, who used to work for Clearstream, a “bank of banks” which practices financial clearing. According to recent wiretap information, however, Calvi’s death was almost certainly decreed by the Cupola, the ruling council of the Sicilian Mafia, which had come to view Calvi as a liability since the bank’s collapse.
2009–2010 Vatican money laundering investigation
In 2009, the Italian magazine Panorama reported that Vatican Bank was being investigated by Italian authorities from the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Banca d’Italia and the Guardia di Finanza over money laundering transactions worth €180 million (US$ 218 million) through a branch of UniCredit located at Via della Conciliazione across from St. Peter’s Basilica. The bank handles accounts of the religious orders and other Catholic associations using the “offshore” (i.e., foreign) status of the Holy See.
On 21 September 2010, Italian police declared that Gotti Tedeschi and another IOR manager were under investigation for money laundering charges. €23 million were seized as a precaution. Police began an investigation regarding Tedeschi around a week before the news was made public after a division of the Bank of Italy alerted police to two transactions involving the Vatican Bank that were deemed suspicious. The money seized was bound from an Italian bank, Credito Artigianato, to JP Morgan Chase and another Italian bank, Banca del Fucino. Both the origin and destination of the funds were accounts under the control of the Vatican Bank. The Vatican Bank had allegedly failed to disclose the origin of the money, a violation of Italian law.
In a statement regarding the investigation, the Vatican said that it was “…perplexed and astonished by the initiatives of the Rome prosecutors, considering the data necessary is already available at the Bank of Italy.” According to the police, the presence of the investigation did not mean either of the officials involved had been charged with a crime, and a judicial ruling would be necessary to continue the investigation.
On Thursday, December 30, 2010, the Catholic News Service homepage reported that Pope Benedict XVI had issued an Apostolic Letter that established the Financial Information Authority as an independent agency to oversee the monetary and commercial activities of all Vatican-related institutions, including the Vatican bank. It will monitor all Vatican financial operations and make sure they meet international norms against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
On May 31, 2011, Rome’s attorney general released the 23 million Euros in assets which had been seized in September, apparently in acknowledgment of the steps taken in the following months to conform the Institute to international standards.”