Vatican seeks to explain US money laundering tag

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By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Friday sought to explain its presence for the first time on a U.S. list of countries that are a potential hub for money laundering, saying it was only natural to be included given its recent efforts to conform to international standards.

The U.S. State Department this week released its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which identified the Holy See as one of 68 countries or jurisdictions "of concern" for money laundering or other financial crimes.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi noted Friday that all the world's major economies — the U.S., Japan and even Italy — are identified as countries of "primary concern" for money laundering. That more serious designation is because of the sheer size of their economies.

Lombardi said it wasn't surprising that the Vatican was placed on the list of jurisdictions "of concern" since it joined a European evaluation process in 2011 to try to conform to international anti-money laundering standards.

In early July, the Vatican is expected to learn whether it has complied with a host of recommendations to fight terror financing and money laundering.

The State Department report didn't explain why the Holy See was included, noting only that it was on the list for the first time. South Sudan, which declared its independence in 2011, was also included for the first time in another category of countries being monitored.

The Vatican passed legislation in 2010 making money laundering a crime and fine-tuned the law earlier this year. It also ratified three major U.N. conventions.

The moves are all part of the Holy See's efforts to get on the "white list" of countries that share financial information and shed its long-held reputation as a secretive offshore tax haven whose bank has been embroiled in scandals over the years.

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