Victoria police not investigating Vatican money transfers to Australia

FILE PHOTO: Former Vatican economy minister George Pell arrives at Rome's Fiumicino Airport after travelling for the first time since his acquittal on child sex abuse charges in Australia, September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Police in the Australian state of Victoria said they were not conducting any further investigation into a transfer of monies from the Vatican to Australia that they were alerted to by the financial crimes watchdog.

Victoria Police said in a statement that the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) had made them aware of "transfer of monies from the Vatican over a period of time to Australia", but had not advised them of any suspicious activity related to the transactions.

"In the absence of any other evidence or intelligence Victoria Police has noted the advice from AUSTRAC. We are not at this time conducting any further investigation."

Earlier this week, the head of AUSTRAC told a Senate committee the agency had probed the allegations that Vatican funds were transferred to Australia amid the prosecution of former Vatican treasurer George Pell for child sex abuse, and had given information to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria police.

The AFP said on Wednesday it was reviewing the information.

Italian media recently reported that Pell's Vatican nemesis, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, sent 700,000 euros ($828,100) to Australia to help Pell's "enemies" while Pell was facing sexual assault charges. Becciu's lawyer has denied the reports.

Pell was acquitted by Australia's High Court in April after serving 13 months in jail on charges he assaulted two choirboys. His lawyer said the Italian media reports on the alleged transfer of Vatican funds must be probed.

(Reporting by John Mair)

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