Vatican Spokesman Talks About Financial Scam in Spain

Urges Church Institutions to Be Well Informed

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 9, 2001 ( Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said the Church in Spain should respond to media criticisms leveled at several Catholic institutions in connection with a $100 million investment fund scam.

Last week Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar´s government and party denied allegations of corruption as the Gescartera investment fund scam put his leadership on the defensive.

Opposition leaders asked why regulators failed to prevent the Gescartera fund from squandering the savings of major institutions, including the national organization for the blind and several Catholic dioceses. A parliamentary investigation was set to begin, the Associated Press reported.

On Saturday, Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican Press Office, spoke about the Gescartera case during an informal conversation at an economics forum in Cernobbio, Italy.

Navarro-Valls said that being well informed is the best way Catholic episcopates and congregations can dissipate public speculation about the way the Church uses its funds.

His statements were published today in La Vanguardia, a Barcelona newspaper.

The director of the Vatican Press Office said it is not a question of censuring individual decisions on how money should be invested, especially if the investments are unsuccessful. He encouraged Catholic institutions to be well informed on financial matters, in order to avoid what he called confusing interpretations.

He emphasized that a Church member has an additional responsibility when it comes to explaining where and why the Church invests its funds.

The Spanish press reported that Church-linked organizations committed some $10.8 million to the investment house.

Founded in 1992, Gescartera lured 2,000 investors with promises of returns as high as 10% in what some have described as a classic pyramid investment scheme.

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