Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Intrigue mounts over removal of Vatican bank head Tedeschi

AP, VATICAN CITY

Intrigue mounted on Saturday over the ouster of former Vatican bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, with leaked documents showing board members and even a psychiatrist had questioned his behavior and fitness for the job months before he was fired.

The board of the Vatican bank ousted Tedeschi on May 24 in a unanimous no-confidence vote, firing a man handpicked by Pope Benedict XVI’s No. 2 to help turn around an institution that has been plagued by scandal for decades.

The board has already made public a scathing denunciation of Tedeschi’s failings as president, saying he was impeding the bank’s efforts to be more financially transparent as the Vatican tries to get on the so-called “white list” of countries that share financial information.

The Il Fatto Quotidiano daily cited a letter on Saturday from a Rome psychotherapist, Pietro Lasalvia, who in March wrote to the bank’s general director with his concerns about Tedeschi’s personal behavior.

Lasalvia, a specialist in the psychology of workplace stress who had been brought into the bank to tend to staffers’ needs, said Tedeschi demonstrated certain behavior linked to a pathological disorder, but stressed on Saturday that his observations were not a diagnosis, but merely reflections.

Tedeschi’s ouster has jolted the staid world of Vatican affairs, in part because of his close ties to Benedict. The firing became all the more worrisome to the Holy See when Tedeschi’s home was raided last week in an unrelated corruption probe and documents he had prepared to respond to his firing were seized by police.

The seizure and Tedeschi’s subsequent questioning by prosecutors prompted the Vatican on Friday to issue a warning to both its ex-bank president and Italian authorities, reminding them that its officials and documents enjoy immunity protection given that the Vatican is a sovereign state.

Tedeschi and the banks’ general director were placed under investigation in 2010 by Rome prosecutors for alleged violations of Italy’s anti-money laundering norms in conducting a routine transaction from a Vatican Bank account at an Italian bank. Prosecutors seized about 23 million euros (US$28.97 million) from the account, but eventually returned it after the Vatican passed an anti-money laundering law that went into effect last year.

Tedeschi had long called the investigation the result of a misunderstanding. Neither he nor the general director were charged. In addition to the Lasalvia letter, Il Fatto reproduced two other letters from bank board members to the Vatican secretary of state in which they explained why they wanted Tedeschi out.

Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz, former No. 2 at Deutsche Bank and now the bank’s interim president, told Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone he would resign from the board if Tedeschi’s ouster were not accepted, saying the bank’s reputation in international financial circles had degenerated so much recently that he feared “imminent danger.”

Carl Anderson, head of the US Catholic fundraising organization Knights of Columbus, cited Tedeschi’s “lack of an adequate response” to JP-Morgan’s decision to close its Vatican Bank accounts earlier this year. JP Morgan did so under apparent pressure from Italian banking regulators.

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