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Head of Vatican bank ousted after only 16 months in office

Vatican City - The Vatican's scandal-tainted bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), is undertaking a management shake-up in an effort to clean up its internal structures, the Holy See announced on Tuesday.

The shake-up will see IOR President Ernst von Freyberg, a lawyer from a well-known German aristocratic family that was appointed in the final days of Benedict XVI’s papacy, leave his post after only 16 months.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was chosen by Pope Francis in February to chair the Secretariat for the Economy - a quasi-finance ministry for the Vatican - said it was time "to move the IOR to a second phase of reform under new leadership.

"The bank’s new board is expected to be announced Wednesday. French financier Jean-Baptiste de Franssu is widely tipped to replace von Freyberg as IOR president.

Von Freyberg’s ouster coincides with the publication of the Vatican’s2013 accounts, which saw net profits fall to 2.9 million euros (3.9million dollars) from 86.6 million euros in 2012. Net profits improved in the first half of 2014, totalling 57.5 million euros.

The IOR said it wrote off 28.5 million euros’ worth of investments last year, but failed to give more details. There have been reports that the bank lost 15 million euros by bailing out a media firm with close ties to a former top cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone.

It also said it closed off thousands of client accounts, as part of efforts to weed out suspicious transactions. IOR said the total number of its customers had fallen from 18,900 in 2012 to 15,495 in 2013.

DPA


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