ROME – Vatican police on Saturday apprehended an American and a Dutchman trying to deposit billions of euros and dollars in fake bonds at the Vatican bank.
The men were stopped by police as they approached one of the guarded gates at the Vatican and asked to be let through to the Institute for Religious Works, as the bank is formally known, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.
The bonds were discovered in a briefcase they were carrying, and the men were handed over to Italy’s financial police, who found falsified passports and other documents in their hotel rooms.
The haul came a day after Italian prosecutors said two former executives at the Vatican bank will go on trial for money laundering in a case that led to the seizure of €23 million ($32 million).
The bank, which handles the accounts of Catholic clerics and congregations around the world, has a murky reputation, but the Vatican has vowed to bring it in line with international laws.
Lombardi said Saturday’s episode “shows the controls are working. But I don’t think we’re talking about a plot by criminal masterminds if they managed to get caught at the first hurdle.”