RELIGION
02/04/2015 11:40 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2015

'God's Bankers' Author Gerald Posner Explains The Vatican Bank's Secret History Of Hiding Mafia Money

Gerald Posner's book God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican chronicles the secret side of the Vatican Bank, the Catholic Church's completely independent financial institution. Part of that history is how the bank became a haven for the loot of mobsters, mafia men and money launderers, which Posner explained to HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani in a Tuesday interview.

The Vatican Bank appealed to the mob, Posner explained, because it was totally free from the oversight of Italian authorities thanks to Vatican City's status as its own nation. Once the mafia realized it could hide cash there, suspicious characters with well-lined pockets turned the Vatican Bank into "one of the largest banks for money launderers and mobsters," Posner said.

Knowledge of that system did not reach the top of the church hierarchy, however, which Posner argues is evidence for the corruption within the bank.

"The Vatican Bank was used by mobsters both in America and in Italy as a repository for some of its accounts -- without the knowledge of the popes at the time, I'm convinced of that. Maybe without even the knowledge of the head of the Vatican Bank. But it goes to show you how bad the controls were there at the time, that [the mob] was able to use it so well," he said.

But it seems the church is making an effort to clean up the bank. Posner said more than 200 "dodgy" accounts were closed last year, and several years previously the bank shuttered a shady account that belonged to Giulio Andreotti, a seven-time Italian prime minister.

"He had an account in the Vatican Bank, cosigned with a monsignor, through which a $60 million slush fund passed to friends, political benefactors and others, so it was a perfect place not only as a stop for mobsters, but even for the most powerful politicians in Italy to put their money," Posner said.

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