We are sure there are perfectly good and legal reasons for people whose only connection with the Vatican is their Catholicism to utilize the sacred city-state’s banking facilities.
Unfortunately, it seems there are many, many more less-than-holy reasons for doing so, such as money laundering and tax evasion. And this is why God’s banker, the Pontiff himself, decided a few years ago that the 1,000 or so laypeople—with more than €300 million in deposits between them—should perhaps do their banking outside the Vatican’s walls, even if that meant doing business with people on a fast track to hell.
Before that, however, one enterprising member of the Pope’s flock allegedly managed to add to the list of financial crimes committed in St. Peter’s backyard: private banker Giampietro Nattino kept a few accounts at the Vatican, both at its bank, the Institute for Works of Religion, and its real-estate and investment arm, APSA. And, well, this is what the cops say he did with them.
Vatican investigators suspected that on one occasion when his bank handled a stock placement, the APSA accounts were used to buy shares before they were allocated to other investors.
In their statement on Tuesday, police said Nattino had used the "cover" of the Vatican financial institutions to carry out "a complex stock operation which resulted in criminal behaviour regarding market manipulation".
The police statement said Nattino had employed "misleading and false" methods to "substantially alter" the price of shares in his bank.