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Vatican bank appoints German head

The Vatican on Friday named a German financier as the new head of its scandal-hit bank, saying he would help overhaul the secretive institution to comply with anti money laundering rules.

Vatican bank appoints German head
Photo: DPA

Ernst von Freyberg replaces Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was unceremoniously sacked by the board on May 24 last year a day after the pope’s butler was arrested for leaking hundreds of confidential papers from the Vatican.

Vatican watchers say Gotti Tedeschi’s ousting could have been linked to his drive to make the bank, the Institute for Religious Works, cooperate with an Italian money laundering inquiry but the circumstances remain mysterious.

Von Freyberg, a trained lawyer, is chairman of the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg in northern Germany and an active member of the Knights of Malta, a lay religious order founded in the Middle Ages.

From 1991 until 2012 he was chief executive of Frankfurt-based Daiwa Corporate Advisory, a consultancy mainly for financial institutions.

“This decision is the result of extensive evaluation and a series of interviews that the Commission of Cardinals has conducted, with the constant support of the Supervisory Board,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection,” it said. The Vatican is trying to implement reforms to put it on an international “white list” of countries that comply with legislation to combat money laundering after a critical report from the Council of Europe last year.

“There is a clear willingness to proceed. The new president is absolutely aware of this,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.

The report from Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body in Strasbourg, scored unsatisfactory ratings for the Vatican in seven out of 16 “key recommendations” and satisfactory ratings in nine.

The report noted that the foundations for a more transparent financial system in the tiny Vatican state “are now formally in place,” adding: “The Holy See has come a long way in a very short period of time.”

“But further important issues still need addressing in order to demonstrate that a fully effective regime has been instituted in practice,” it added.

In particular, the report “strongly recommended” that the Vatican’s bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), “is independently supervised.”

The bank is currently supervised by a committee of cardinals. The Vatican has since appointed Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, who helped Liechtenstein shed its shady reputation, to be executive director at its Financial Information Authority (FIA), which Moneyval had criticised for light oversight.

The FIA is still headed up by Italian cardinal Attilio Nicora. The Vatican bank has a troubled history including in the 1970s and 1980s with the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, where the Holy See was the main shareholder, which was accused of laundering money for the Sicilian mafia.

The chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi — dubbed “God’s Banker” in the press — was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in a suspected murder by mobsters for which no-one has ever been convicted.

AFP/kkf

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Cashless payments in Switzerland: What is Twint and how does it work?

If you live in Switzerland, you are likely no stranger to Twint and maybe even use it regularly to make and receive payments. But if you are not familiar with this app, this is what you should know.

Twint app can be installed on a mobile phone.
“Twinting” money with a smartphone is easy and convenient. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Switzerland, the word “Twint” is used both as a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it describes the mobile application which allows you to pay for various goods and services practically everywhere in the country.

As a verb, (“to twint”), it means to send someone money, or receive it, via the same app.

So what exactly is Twint?

Simply put, it is digital cash (not to be confused with bitcoin, which is digital currency) that was first introduced in Switzerland in 2014 and has become very popular since then.

Twint logo. Image by Twint.ch

People like it because it is an easy and quick way to make instantaneous payments, especially in situations when credit cards or physical cash can’t be used.

A big part of its convenience is that it can be used at cash registers, vending machines and parking meters, as well as in online shops — pretty much everywhere in Switzerland, even in places that don’t accept credit cards.

The only similar mode of payment would be your maestro debit card issued by your bank.

This video explains exactly how the process works.

Another advantage of Twint is that you can use it to send money to someone else’s mobile phone — as long as they also have Twint. And you can receive money the same way.

And there are no fees or charges for this service.

How does Twint work?

Anyone can use Twint, but you need a Swiss bank account or a credit card and, of course, a smartphone.

According to Twint website, you need a smartphone with either an iOS (from version 12.2 and upwards) or Android (from version 7 and upwards) operating system and Bluetooth capability (from version 4.0 and upwards).

“It is generally not possible for Twint to be used on Apple devices with an operating system older than “iOS 12.2” or on Android devices with an operating system older than “Android 7”. On Android devices without access to the Google Play Store (e.g. on certain HUAWEI models), the use of Twint app is also not possible”.

But If you have a compatible phone, installing Twint is easy.

Swiss banks offer their own version of the app, and you can download it directly from your bank’s website.

Then, when you use Twint to make a payment, the amount is debited directly from your bank account or credit card.

By the same token, if you receive payment from another Twint user, the money is automatically deposited in your account.

And you are not limited to just one Twint app.

If you have accounts is several banks, or have more than one credit card, you can install and use all of them.

READ MORE: How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Can Twint be used to make payments and receive money from abroad?

For the moment, Twint can be used solely in Switzerland and payments can be made only in Swiss francs – although this may change in future. 

“We are, however, working closely with providers in other countries to develop an international and multi-currency solution”, according to Twint website.

You can find more information about Twint here.

READ MORE: Which bank is best for Americans in Switzerland?

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