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Pope internationalizes Vatican financial watchdog agency

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Vatican City

Pope Francis named a slate of new members to the Vatican's financial watchdog agency, replacing an all-Italian panel with members from Italy, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, also promoted Tommaso Di Ruzza, an Italian, to be the agency's "ad interim" vice-director. A former official at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Di Ruzza had been an assistant at the financial authority, which is directed by Rene Brulhart.

The Vatican made the announcements Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI established the Financial Intelligence Authority in late 2010 to monitor Vatican financial operations and ensure they met international norms against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In November, Pope Francis revised the agency's statutes. He clarified the roles of the authority's president, board of directors and director, and specified that it would have two separate offices: one concerned with supervision and regulation, the other with financial intelligence.

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New finance laws passed in October formally expanded the competence of the Financial Intelligence Authority by including the task of "preventive" vigilance, which involves ensuring the proper organization and trustworthiness of all Vatican financial operations.

As part of the restructuring, Pope Francis thanked the departing five executive council members, who Pope Benedict named in 2011.

The new members, named for a five-year term, are:

  • Juan C. Zarate, a U.S. senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School. He is also works as a national security and financial integrity consultant, once serving the U.S. government from 2005 to 2009 as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.
  • Maria Bianca Farina, a top Italian administrator at the Italian postal system's investment and insurance divisions, Poste Vita and Poste Assicura. She is an expert in tax audits and investment management.
  • Marc Odendall, a Swiss-based philanthropist and chairman of the Odendall Foundation. A former financier who has worked at JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, he has served as chairman of the International Ethics Board of EDHEC Business School and is a board member of the Caritas in Veritate Foundation.
  • Joseph Yubaraj Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers of the Republic of Singapore and of Tiger Airways Holdings. He formerly served as chairman of Singapore Airlines and of the Singapore stock exchange.

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