Leaked letters reveal plot to oust Vatican banker: report

Updated 09 June 2012

Leaked letters reveal plot to oust Vatican banker: report

ROME: Vatican bank board members plotted to oust their director, letters leaked to an Italian newspaper on Saturday showed, as prosecutors investigated possible money-laundering operations at the bank.
The board dismissed Ettore Gotti Tedeschi on May 24, a day before Vatican police arrested Pope Benedict XVI’s butler for allegedly leaking sensitive papal documents to the press in an apparently unrelated case.
Ahead of the board meeting, according to letters in the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano that could not be independently verified, the bank’s vice president Ronaldo Schmitz threatened to resign if Gotti Tedeschi was not dismissed.
Gotti Tedeschi “does not have the necessary qualities to guide the Institute,” Schmitz wrote in the letter, referring to the bank’s official name, the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR under its Italian acronym.
“He has aggravated the situation with his inertia and his lack of loyalty toward staff and lack of transparency to the board,” Schmitz said, addressing himself to the Vatican’s powerful Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
“I am confident that Your Eminence will immediately end president Gotti’s mandate. I do not want to continue to serve with Gotti Tedeschi. I will present my resignation by the end of May 2012 if he is not dismissed,” Schmitz wrote.
His comments were backed up by Carl Anderson, another board member, who said: “I have reached the conclusion, after much prayer and reflection, that Gotti Tedeschi is no longer able to guide the Institute in difficult times.
“His occasional communications with me are focussed not on the life of the Institute but on internal political manoeuvring and on denigrating others,” he wrote, adding that Gotti Tedeschi had shown “increasingly eccentric behavior.”
A letter from a psychiatrist, Pietro Lasalvia, also appeared to show he had been invited to a Christmas dinner in 2011 attended by Gotti Tedeschi and asked to assess the IOR director surreptitiously.
“There were traits of egocentrism, narcissism and a partial disconnect from reality that could be a psychopathological dysfunction,” Lasalvia wrote.
Meanwhile the Corriere della Sera daily said Italian prosecutors were probing a series of documents seized during raids on Gotti Tedeschi’s home and office this week as part of an investigation into money-laundering at the bank.
The report said investigators were focussing on accounts at the Vatican bank held by “politicians, shady intermediaries, contractors and senior (Italian) officials” as well as “people believed to be fronts for mafia bosses.”
Investigators have reportedly found “property investments and Church property sales that could disguise money transfers to fronts and the need to ‘launder’ through firms and banks not subject to direct controls like the IOR.”
The Vatican on Friday defended itself against the growing scandal around the IOR, saying Gotti Tedeschi’s ouster was due to “objective reasons” and stating its commitment to “transparency” at the bank.
In its statement, the Vatican also emphasised that Italian prosecutors should respect the Holy See’s “sovereign prerogatives” under international law.
Gotti Tedeschi and his former deputy, Paolo Cipriani, are already under investigation in Italy for allegedly laundering 23 million euros ($29 million).
Vatican watchers say Gotti Tedeschi was ousted due to a long-running dispute with Secretary of State Bertone and a reaction against his efforts to bring the Vatican bank in line with international regulations against money-laundering.


Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

Updated 19 September 2019

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

  • Nearly 1,500 schools closed as haze continues to plague the country

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s haze problem worsened on Wednesday, some areas of the country recorded readings above 200 on the Air Pollution Index (API), which officials told Arab News is considered “very unhealthy.”

More than a million primary and high-school students stayed home as 1,484 schools remained closed in seven states, including Selangor and Sarawak — the two worst-affected states. 

In some areas of Sarawak, API readings were above 300, which is considered hazardous to the environment and human health. 

The Ministry of Education advised all higher education institutions in the haze-affected states to postpone their classes, while some companies and institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asked employees to work from home.

Responding to the worsening situation, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad stressed that Malaysia must deal with the haze issue on its own.

“We will have to find ways to deal with the haze, through cloud seeding, asking people to stay at home, and school closures,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya. 

The Malaysia government also stressed that it will take legal action against Malaysian companies that own estates and plantations outside Malaysia which have contributed to the problem. 

“We will ask them to put out the fires (they have set). If they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law that holds them responsible,” the 93-year-old Malaysian leader said.

The ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatera and Kalimantan regions have intensified, leading to an increase in the haze across the Southeast Asian region. Those fires, coupled with the dry weather conditions in certain areas, mean the air quality is expected to continue to deteriorate. The general public have been advised to stay indoors and to wear facemasks if they do have to go outside.

Benjamin Ong, a Kuala Lumpur-based environmentalist told Arab News that many Malaysians are concerned about the ongoing and worsening issue of haze, which has become an annual occurrence despite efforts by Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast-Asian governments to tackle the transboundary problem. 

“Outdoor activities are badly affected, including environmental activities like hiking and outdoor classes for kids,” Ong said, adding that many families are especially concerned about the pollution’s impact on their children’s education.

“The haze has been hanging around for at least 20 years, but the root causes have never been systematically tackled,” he added. “Distribution of masks, school closures and cloud seeding are only treating the symptoms, so to speak, and do not in any way make society more resilient to haze if and when it returns.”