by Desmond O'Grady in Rome THE CLASH between the Vatican and Italian authorities over the Marcinkus affair has sharpened. The lawyers of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, President of the Vatican Bank (IOR), have lost an appeal against the arrest warrant for him, and two of his collaborators, and have taken the case to the supreme court.
Salvatore de Bonis, number two to Marcinkus in the Vatican Bank, has given an interview which implies that Italian magistrates' persecution of Marcinkus distracts attention from the real culprits in the IOR — Ambrosiano Bank affair.
In the interview to the Roman daily La Republica, de Bonis deplored "the investigators' scarce interest in discovering who are really responsible for the Ambrosiano Bank's collapse. if the investigators concentrate always and only on IOR it means that it is not yet
realised that those really responsible are elsewhere".
According to de Bonis, the IOR trio, who cannot leave the Vatican without running the risk of being arrested, are not culprits but "victims of an obscure and complicated situation".
A Vatican tribunal recently decided that the proofs accompanying the arrest warrants were in part mere conjecture, contradicted by defence documents. Moreover it said that Italian authorities have no jurisdiction over the IOR's operations.
This has led to indignant articles in papers such as La Republica asking if Italian banks should deal with a foreign bank (10R) when its administrators do not have to account for their actions. In addition, there have been requests for instalment of Italian fiscal police, for the first time, on the Italian-Vatican frontier. This would not be too onerous
as the Vatican state is smaller than a decent size golf course.
Evidently the Vatican is convinced of the innocence of Marcinkus and his collaborators in the 1982 "fraudulent bankruptcy" of the Ambrosiano, Italy's largest private bank. The Vatican later paid $240.8 million to 119 creditor banks as "sign of goodwill". But it has never admitted IOR responsibility.
If the Vatican is prepared to go to the wall with Marcinkus, it is surprising it does not throw some light on the Machiavellian characters who allegedly threw all the blame illegitimately on the Vatican trio.
As they stand, de Bonis' comments amount to a charge of partiality against the investigators. The next move is up to the Supreme Court which will either confirm the arrest warrants or overturn the investigating magistrates' decision.