The Vatican said Tuesday it has hired an international expert on money laundering to help it get rid of a reputation for shady dealings following a Council of Europe call for tighter controls.
Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, 40, has been taken on to help strengthen financial regulations and improve transparency as the Vatican tries to crack down on terrorist financing and fraud, spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
"After the Moneyval report on the Vatican, now is not the moment to slow down on our commitments," Lombardi said, referring to the study released by the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering body in Strasbourg in July.
In the report, the Vatican had scored unsatisfactory ratings in seven out of 16 "key recommendations" and satisfactory ratings in nine, and while Moneyval hailed recent progress, it called for the Vatican's efforts to be redoubled.
Bruelhart, who was head of Liechtenstein's financial intelligence unit (FIU) for eight years, has also honed his skills as leader of the Egmont Group, an informal alliance of some 130 countries which share financial information.
His main task will be to tackle the Vatican's murky reputation following a series of scandals, including allegations that bank accounts belonging to clergy in the tiny state were being used by the mafia for money laundering.
The Vatican bank has a troubled history including in the 1970s and 1980s with the collapse of 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.
In one of the latest inquiries, the La Repubblica daily reported on an investigation into a Vatican bank account owned by a priest who was allegedly paid off by the mob. The account was allegedly being used for money laundering and fraud.
Pope Benedict XVI last December created a new financial authority after Italian prosecutors launched an investigation of Vatican bank officials.
The Vatican hopes its clean-up act will help align the state with new global standards and get it on to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development's white list of financially virtuous countries.