Police in the Vatican have prevented a pair of fraudsters from trying to enter the Vatican bank with a suitcase stuffed with trillions of euros of fake bond certificates
The Telegraph, Tom Kington, Rome, 30 Mar 2014
|The middle aged men, an American and a Dutch citizen of Malaysian origin,|
arrived at the main gate of the Vatican on the morning of March 11, telling
Swiss guards they had an appointment at the bank Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP
Two smartly-dressed men armed with forged bond certificates worth trillions of euros have been caught while trying to talk their way into the Vatican's bank, in a spectacularly bungled fraud scheme.
The middle aged men, an American and a Dutch citizen of Malaysian origin, arrived at the main gate of the Vatican on the morning of March 11, telling Swiss guards they had an appointment at the bank, which has been dogged by scandals over the years.
When bank staff said they had no record of an appointment, the two men said cardinals were expecting them – arousing the suspicions of Vatican police, who called in colleagues from Italy's tax police.
"When we arrived, the Vatican police had opened the men's briefcase to find bond certificates valued in US and Hong Kong dollars, as well as euros, worth €3 trillion," said Lt Col Davide Cardia, a tax police official.
The two men, Lt Col Cardia, said, were likely planning to use the certificates to fraudulently open a line of credit at the bank.
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"We noticed the grammar of the English used on the certificates was full of mistakes – it looked like they had been written using Google Translate," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Searching their hotel room we found the seals used to forge the bond certificates."
Since the men were stopped before carrying out a fraud, they were released under Italian law and have now likely left Italy, said Lt. Col. Cardia.
"The men have been caught trying this before in other countries and seem to go around the world trying their luck with banks," he said.
The men may have been lured by the reputation of the Vatican bank – known as the IOR – for attracting money launders and mafiosi.
Last week, Italian prosecutors said two former senior officials at the bank, Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, would stand trial for money laundering.
But the Vatican is also trying hard to end corruption at the bank and close shadowy accounts opened by lay customers over the years, particularly following Pope Francis's threat to close the bank down.
"We were surprised the two men tried this scam with the IOR – maybe they didn't know what is going on there at the moment," said Lt Col Cardia.
Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the police operation "shows the controls are working."
But he added, "I don't think we're talking about a plot by criminal masterminds if they managed to get caught at the first hurdle."