Vatican and Italian officials have stopped two men who were trying to deposit fake bonds worth €3 trillion in the Vatican Bank, intended to be used on international markets.
The two individuals, an American and a Dutch national, were trying to enter the Vatican with a briefcase containing €3 trillion (£2.5 trillion) fake bonds in Euros, dollars and other currencies, which they wanted to deposit in the Vatican Bank in exchange of “generous donations to the Church”.
The police arrested the pair before they managed to open a line of credit to trade on global markets, but released them amid further investigations. The two are believed to be part of a wider international network, which may have referees inside the Vatican.
One of the two people involved was carrying three passports. The police have also searched the hotel room in which the pair was staying and found several computers, phones and financial documents.
A spokesperson for the bank said that the men were not customers and were not expected by anyone.
The Vatican Bank, also known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, holds thousands of religious institutions and individuals’ accounts, but has often been involved in corruption and money laundering scandals.
In June last year, three people, including a priest, were arrested amid claims of corruption and money laundering from Switzerland.
The recent operation was made possible by the new anti-laundering norms introduced by Pope Francis, who promised to bring the Bank back on a moral path. He created a special committee to watch over the bank, and as a result, the Vatican state was upgraded for ethics by the European agency.