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Italian police have arrested two men who were allegedly trying to deposit trillions of euros in fake bonds in the Vatican bank.
Police said a middle-aged American and a Dutch citizen approached the main gate of the Vatican on 11 March, telling the Vatican’s Swiss Guards they had an appointment with bank officials. The Swiss Guards were suspicious, detained the men and called the Italian Financial Police.
"When we arrived, the Vatican police had opened the men's briefcase to find bond certificates valued in US and Hong Kong dollars, as well as euro, worth €3 trillion [£2.5m]," said Lt Col Davide Cardia.
Investigators said they believed the suspects were hoping to open a line of credit at the bank.
The bank, officially called the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), runs thousands of private accounts held by cardinals, bishops and religious orders all over the world.
"We noticed the grammar of the English used on the certificates was full of mistakes – it looked like they had been written using Google Translate," Lt Col Cardia told the Daily Telegraph. He added: "Searching their hotel room we found the seals used to forge the bond certificates."
Lt Col Cardia said the two suspects were later released pending further investigation.
The bank has been at the centre of a major clean-up effort by Pope Francis. In 2012 the European watchdog Moneyval found that it fell short of global norms on combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism and tax evasion.