French financier to head scandal-plagued Vatican bank

Jean-Baptiste De Franssu (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

French financier Jean-Baptiste de Franssu has been appointed the new President of the Vatican bank. It is part of the major overhaul of the bank to restore its reputation after a long list of money laundering scandals.

Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, 51, is the founder and Chairman of INCIPIT, and has been serving on the new Vatican economic council. An expert in investment banking, he was Chief Executive Officer of INVESCO Europe and member of the INVESCO Worldwide management committee.

Franssu will head a new board and management team at the Vatican bank.

The Frenchman said he was “honored” to oversee the bank’s transformation.

“This is an important and challenging part-time assignment over the next year,” Franssu said. “I’m looking forward to beginning work in late September.”

Franssu’s predecessor Ernst von Freyberg, a German lawyer whose term in office lasted less than 17 months, was involved in a scandal with Italian money laundering and cash smuggling investigations.

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, von Freyberg said that the bank is now fraud free.

“The bank is now clean,” he said, adding that “dubious” investments resulted in losses of more than 45 million euro ($60 million).

Jean-Baptiste De Franssu (Reuters/Eric Vidal)
Jean-Baptiste De Franssu (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

Franssu in turn said he wants to “follow up on the good work” made by von Freyberg and praised the “extremely smooth and amicable handover that is currently taking place.”

The Vatican also announced that Lord Patten, the former chairman of the BBC Trust, will head Pope Francis’ new media advisory board.

The bank’s transformation will also include the creation of a separately managed Vatican pension fund, a Vatican asset manager, and the slimming down of the Vatican’s Treasury function Apse.

“Our ambition is to become a model for financial management rather than a cause for occasional scandal,” the Financial Times quotes Cardinal George Pell, the Australian Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

On Tuesday, the Vatican bank, known officially as the Institute for Religious Works, said its profits nosedived to 2.9 million euro in 2013 from 86.6 million euro in 2012.

Since May 2013 the bank has been under investigation, with outside experts screening all existing customer records. As a result, about 2,600 dormant accounts were closed, with another 705 accounts either terminated for failing to meet the criteria for doing business with the bank.

Since the scandals, the bank has started rebuilding itself within Pope Francis’s mission to refocus the Catholic Church to supporting the poor and needy.

In June 2013 the Bishop of Salerno in southern Italy, Monsignor Nuncio Scarano was arrested during an Italian investigation into the Vatican bank. Scarano was accused of taking $780,200 out of an account in the Vatican bank.

In October, the Pope replaced Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had been brought down by allegations of ties to corrupt Italian politicians and the Vatican’s financial scandals.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.