Italy bans card payments in Vatican over money laundering

Italian authorities have stopped all electronic payments inside the Vatican City after the Bank of Italy complained that it had failed to bring in new procedures to prevent money laundering.

The Bank of Italy suspended all bank card payments on Vatican territory from the start of the year and ordered Deutsche Bank Italia, which manages electronic payments for the world’s smallest country, to turn off its systems.

Italian newspapers reported that the action was taken after officials at the Italian central bank became worried that the Vatican was not prepared to implement new anti-money laundering rules.

The suspension of card services means that the Vatican museum, along with the territory’s pharmacy and post office, have all been unable to transfer money and accept payments.

A spokesman for the Vatican told the Italian press the state hoped to find a non-Italian bank to provide it with access to payment services “quite soon” and that the problem would be “short-lived”. The Vatican has not commented directly on the Bank of Italy’s concerns.

Five million tourists visited the Vatican last tyear and spent €91.3m (£74m). However, until its payment systems are restored the Vatican said that all transactions, including buying tickets for its world famous museum, would have to be done in cash.

Pope Benedict XVI has pledged to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent. In the past, the Vatican has been linked to organised crime organisations that had infiltrated its banking operations.