Australian police find nothing criminal in Vatican fund transfers

There was speculation in the media that some of the funds were to cover former Vatican treasurer George Pell's legal costs.
There was speculation in the media that some of the funds were to cover former Vatican treasurer George Pell's legal costs.PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australian police said on Tuesday (March 23) that they had found nothing criminal in the transfer of A$9.5 million (S$9.8 million) from the Vatican to Australia between 2014 and 2020.

Financial crime watchdog Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) scrutinised the transactions after Italian media reported in September that large sums of money had been sent to Australia during the trial of former Vatican treasurer George Pell, who had faced charges of historical child sexual assault.

There was speculation in the media that some of the funds were sent to cover Cardinal Pell's legal costs or that some was sent by a rival in the Vatican to help build cases against him. Cardinal Pell was acquitted by Australia's High Court last April after serving 13 months in jail on charges he assaulted two choirboys. He returned to Rome last September.

After reviewing data provided by Austrac, the Australian Federal Police said nothing illegal had been uncovered related to the transactions.

"No criminal misconduct has been identified," a spokesman for the police said in e-mailed comments, without elaborating on how the funds were used.

Austrac had originally put the sum transferred at A$2.3 billion, but slashed its estimate to a fraction of that amount after a shocked Vatican called for the watchdog to check its calculations.

Austrac blamed its miscalculation on complexities and inconsistencies in data it had received from international institutions.