Vatican | Newsmakers

René Brülhart, known as the “James Bond of the financial world” for his high-profile role in cases such as the return of assets from Saddam Hussein to post-war Iraq and the uncovering of the Siemens bribery scandal, has become chairman of the Vatican’s anti-money-laundering unit.

Since September 2012, Brülhart, a Swiss-born lawyer, has served as director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (FIA), the anti-money-laundering body established by Pope Benedict XVI to ensure the Holy See
complies with international financial standards. In November he was made chairman in an overhaul of the top managers of the Vatican’s finances.

Brülhart, formerly the director of Liechtenstein’s Financial Intelligence Unit, was initially hired by the Vatican in response to a report published by the Council of Europe’s anti-money-laundering committee, Moneyval, which highlighted “serious failings” at the bank regarding transparency and called for its independent supervision.

“The fight against money laundering is an ongoing process, and this is common to all countries, which are never perfect,” Brülhart told Global Finance on the phone from Rome. He said the work the FIA had done so far was recognized at an international level with its becoming a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units in the summer of 2013. The Egmont Group is an informal international network of financial intelligence units and has more than 130 member countries.

In the coming months, Brülhart says, his job at the FIA “is about  strengthening the system and enforcing international cooperation.” So far, the FIA has reached memoranda of understanding for the international exchange of information with more than 20 countries. Brülhart began his career in 1999, working with law firms in Brussels and Zurich.