June 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

Pope Francis shakes up Vatican financial watchdog

Pope Francis (Gregorio Borgia / AP)

Vatican City — Pope Francis ousted the all-Italian board of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency Thursday and installed a more international set of experts following clashes between the board and the agency’s director.

The four new board members are from Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

The previous board of the Financial Information Authority had complained that it was being kept in the dark about agency activities since Swiss anti-money-laundering expert Rene Bruelhart arrived as director in 2012. The infighting led Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora to resign as authority president earlier this year.

The Vatican created the agency in 2010 to supervise and regulate the Holy See’s financial activities and share financial information with other countries to comply with international anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing norms. Under Bruelhart’s direction, the Holy See has entered into about a dozen financial information-sharing agreements with other countries.

One of the former Italian board members, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, is also president of the Vatican tribunal, creating a potential conflict of interest given that independent financial watchdog agency forwards suspected cases of financial crimes to the tribunal’s prosecutors for further investigation.

According to the agency’s new statutes, approved in November, board members must have recognized professional competence in legal, economic and financial fields, and be free from any conflict of interest.