Australia's Victoria state police no longer investigating Vatican money transfers

by Reuters
Friday, 23 October 2020 06:01 GMT

(Adds details of AFP investigation, background of case)

SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Australian police in the state of Victoria said they were not conducting any further investigation into a transfer of monies from the Vatican to Australia, which Italian media had reported were made during the prosecution of former Vatican treasurer George Pell.

Victoria Police said in a statement that the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) had made them aware of "transfer of monies from the Vatican over a period of time to Australia", but said the financial crimes watchdog had not advised them of any suspicious activity related to the transactions.

"In the absence of any other evidence or intelligence Victoria Police has noted the advice from AUSTRAC. We are not at this time conducting any further investigation."

Earlier this week, the head of AUSTRAC told a Senate committee the agency had probed the allegations that Vatican funds were transferred to Australia amid the prosecution of Pell for child sex abuse, and had given information to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria police.

The AFP said on Wednesday it was reviewing the information, and had referred some aspects of the matter to the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), which investigates misconduct by state police.

On Friday, the AFP said there was no update to their earlier statement.

Police in Victoria in 2017 laid several charges against Pell involving historical child sexual offences, but only one case, involving two former choirboys, went to trial in 2018.

Italian media recently reported that Pell's Vatican nemesis, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, sent 700,000 euros ($828,000) to Australia to help Pell's "enemies" while Pell was facing the charges. Becciu's lawyer has denied the reports.

Pell was acquitted by Australia's High Court in April after serving 13 months in jail on charges he assaulted two choirboys. His lawyer said the Italian media reports on the alleged transfer of Vatican funds must be probed.

Pell's accuser in the sexual assault case has said through his lawyer that "he has no knowledge of any payments allegedly made by the Vatican to Australia". (Reporting by John Mair; Editing by Michael Perry)

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