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"The Devil's Job": ex-Vatican Bank chief Tedeschi on finance and morality

Italian economist and banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was president of the Vatican’s Bank at a time of turmoil from 2009 to 2012. Amid a

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"The Devil's Job": ex-Vatican Bank chief Tedeschi on finance and morality

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Italian economist and banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was president of the Vatican’s Bank at a time of turmoil from 2009 to 2012.

Point of view

If Pope Francis wants to really take measures and not only make declarations about reform, he should find out about what happened

Amid a money-laundering inquiry the Holy See’s opaque finances came under unprecedented scrutiny.

Tedeschi was sacked for alleged “dereliction of duty” – he claimed he was trying to introduce transparency.

What does he make of the Vatican and the world of high finance today?

Euronews correspondent Paolo Alberto Valenti met him in Milan.

*Paolo Alberto Valenti, euronews:
Mr Tedeschi, thanks for joining us on euronews. You were the president of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s bank, during the papacy of Benedict XVI. You asked for the help of leading experts on money laundering, to bring the Vatican back onto the (transparency) “white list”. Why did the Vatican not accept your plan?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, Banker, ex-President of Vatican Bank:
“Many people did not understand what had happened after the 11th September 2001 and did not understand that the new international regulations, which determine banking systems, were going to become stricter. Secondly: numerous people in the Vatican were afraid of a loss of sovereignty in agreeing to yield to these new international norms. Thirdly, in terms of culture, many people believe that the controls are not “legitimate” because at the Vatican there are facts, events to defend, and so people confuse on the one hand secrets, with confidentiality on the other hand. They did not understand that, in the context in which we were living, the absence of internal controls would have provoked more external controls. Fourthly, there were people who did not understand that the danger concerning this anti-money laundering legislation would lead to a loss of credibility for the Holy Father. The problem at the heart of this debate, is that they tried to deter me and pursued me, giving nine totally false reasons. I demanded an immediate inquiry on these nine points, and there never was one. And no-one ever asked me about it. And what hurts most, which remains even in the Church, is that they didn’t want to understand the truth, nor to know my truth.”

*euronews :
But when you were dramatically sacked, you were afraid for your safety and you also compiled a dossier on the Vatican Bank’s secrets…*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“The facts went in a completely different way, however all that is a question which was passed onto the public prosecutor. I prefer not to speak about it.”

*euronews:
Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s committee of experts tasked with counteracting money laundering, has always identified numerous shortcomings in the Vatican’s finances, in particular in the field of laundering. In your opinion is Pope Francis able to sort things out?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“At the time of my mandate as President of the bank, Moneyval carried out two important inspections: the first in November 2011 when it came to see what we had done the previous year, it gave a very positive opinion. Then, in December 2011, a month later, the (Vatican’s) law (on the matter) changed against all expectations: four points of law were modified, and in particular the role of the controlling authority. The VatiLeaks scandal broke at that moment and one bank, JP Morgan, closed its account at the Vatican with an enormous media impact. Moneyval came back to Italy once again, and in April 2012, it wrote a second ‘report’ in which it said: You have taken a step backwards. But a month later, I was no longer there…”

*euronews:
Do you think that in the Vatican Bank money is still being embezzled?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“I don’t know everything… but if there is no law, if the procedures are not there and if there is no controlling authority, it’s obvious that there’s a risk.”

*euronews:
In any case, could Pope Francis resolve things?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“If Pope Francis wants to really take measures and not only make declarations about reform (in a similar way to prime minister Matteo Renzi), he should find out about what happened.”

*euronews:
Even Hollywood denounces the criminal cynicism of the world of high finance in the US, I’m thinking of the high-risk mortgage loans, toxic products… but in your opinion, is it enough that a banker is motivated by good intentions to neutralise the harmful consequences of these actions?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“In this precise case, the limit of cynicism comes not from the banking world, but from the world of politicians who – in struggling against the crisis, falling GDP and hoping to reduce debt without doing a proper ‘deleveraging’ (debt reduction process) – triggered the famous animal instinct of bankers who were eager to be able to act freely. The responsibility is personal, Mr Valenti, there was no collective responsiblity, each person should know whether what he does is good or not good for himself and for the common good.”

*euronews:
How can we accept that a banker can receive bonuses for toxic financial products and not be pursued by the justice system?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“If you want a technical explanation, it’s simple. From a moral point of view, my interpretation is that there should never be a bonus like that, and if a banker have had them, he should give them back.”

*euronews:
Economic decisions are taken by informed people between New York and Washington. In Brussels they send their conclusions with a note where they write ‘to do’”: that’s what you wrote in the book you published with the journalist Paolo Gambi (“Un mestiere del diavolo”, “The Devil’s Job”). Now, I’m asking you: at international level, do you think that Europe counts for nothing?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“I believe that today we should ask ourselves this question: but what is it that counts? Today, no-one knows where the power lies. Europe could have a very big advantage, that of being a point of balance, it could support the strategy of the United States which is very worried because Asia is experiencing dramatic growth, or Europe could well make its own choices. Europe is a key element at the moment, in my view, in this system where geopolitical power is being reorganised. But what is Europe? I have not understood what Europe is, and who Europe is. If Europe is the Europe of Brussels, we’re off to a bad start. But if Europe is Germany – then we’re off to an even worse start!”

*euronews:
“The time is out of joint”: Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. These few words seem to me to be revealing about what happens in the world in numerous domains, and no doubt have been for centuries. But do you really believe that religions and morality can resolve things?*

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi:
“There is no religion that imposes a cultural system. We can’t impose anything. We must believe individually and in a responsible manner regarding what is good and what’s bad in exercising our personal freedom. It’s for that reason that the Church has a very very important role which has been failing for most of the last 30 years. This failure has led a great part of the international political and economic world, international leaders to no longer have this feeling for life. And if I no longer have the feeling for life, how can I give a meaning to my actions?”

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, former President of the Vatican Bank, was speaking to Paolo Alberto Valenti of euronews.