Italy Imposes E-payments Ban on the Vatican

Authorities in Italy have prevented all electronic payments (e-payments) inside the Vatican City since New Year’s Day, in response to complaints that it has failed to introduce new anti-money laundering (AML) measures.

The Bank of Italy (BoI) suspended all bank card payments on Vatican territory from 1 January and ordered Deutsche Bank Italia (DBI), which manages e-payments for the city state, to turn off its systems.  Tourists and pilgrims visiting the Vatican City have been obliged to pay for all purchases, including entrance tickets for the Sistine Chapel and museums, by cash or cheque.

Also affected are the Vatican’s pharmacy, shops and post office, which have been unable to transfer money or accept e-payments.  Around five million tourists visited the Vatican museum last year, spending a total of €91.3m on tickets and souvenirs.

According to Italian press reports, BoI officials have become increasingly concerned by the Vatican’s reluctance to implement new AML rules and withdrew authorisation for DBI to continue handling bank card payments within Vatican territory. E-payments will continue to be suspended until a replacement for DBI is found, which Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said was a task already underway. He declined to comment on the BoI’s action beyond saying that he expected the problem to be short-lived,

Pope Benedict XVI has promised greater transparency in Vatican finances and the operations of its bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which has in the past been implicated in major money-laundering scandals. Last July a report by Moneyval, a department of the Council of Europe, reported that considerable progress had been made but there were still continuing failures in some areas, including the IOR’s management.

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