In Swiss Vaults

Nino Lo Bello, The Vatican Empire, “There’s No Business Like Vatican Business VIII:”

Vatican banking, however, is not confined to Italy. Funds managed by the Vatican’s Prefecture of Economic Affairs are deposited in numerous non-Italian banks. Some are in America, and many are in Switzerland, where the Vatican maintains its funds in numbered accounts. Nobody really knows how much money the Vatican has in Swiss vaults. But it is known that one reason why the Vatican likes to bank in Switzerland is because the Swiss franc can provide protection against inflation and devaluation of money in other countries. Since 1945, there have been more than 170 currency devaluations all over the world—twelve of them in Brazil alone. Unlike the American dollar or the British pound, which have substantially less than 50 percent backing in gold reserves, the Swiss franc is guaranteed up to 130 percent by gold. So, because Switzerland’s money is “hard money,” the Vatican holds the francs and exchanges them for the legal tender of another country when needed.

The Vatican also uses its Swiss accounts to maintain its anonymity when gaining control of foreign corporations. Swiss banks, unlike American banks, can act as stockbrokers; they hold large numbers of shares belonging to clients but not in the clients’ names. The Vatican, like any other depositor, can have a Swiss bank buy shares in a company in the bank’s name and can thus obtain control of the company in full anonymity. The “Gnomes of Zurich”*—a pet name pinned on Swiss banking officials by the British—point out, however, that the total number of shares their banks hold in U.S. companies is less than 1 percent of America’s outstanding stock. Any speculation about how much the Vatican may have silently invested in the U.S. economy, at least at the corporation level, must take this figure into account.

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*this reminds me of Harry Potter’s goblins of Gringott’s

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