By Mark Esposito, Weekend Guy
Overshadowed by Pope Francis’ announcement Thursday that the mob is now persona non grata in Roman Catholic Churches (“RCC”) throughout the world is the very real –and related –struggle behind the scenes at the Vatican Bank. Officially known as the Istituto per le Opere di Religione or Institute for the Works of Religion, the bank has been at the center of RCC-Mafia relations for years. The bank itself is ostensibly independent but situates itself squarely on sovereign territory owned and controlled by the Pope and its Board of Superintendence answers directly to the Curia and the Pope.
Founded in 1942 by papal decree, the bank has had a tumultuous history. Unlike other financial institutions, the assets of the bank are not loaned to borrowers who pay back with interest. Rather the bank functions more like a holding company for assets which are intended to be distributed for charitable functions of the RCC. In this role as repository for the billions of dollars in assets and cash, the bank has been subjected to considerable criticism both for its haphazard administration and the customer it attracts. Customers, who Italian prosecutors say, have ties to organized crime. Continue reading “The Risk of Reforming God’s Bank”
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
With many states grappling with the need for tax revenue and the otherwise laudable effort to curtail cigarette smoking among their citizens, laws of supply and demand are beginning to having unexpected consequences to some. Rises in taxation of cigarettes with prices in one location as high as $15.00 per pack, the majority of cigarettes consumed by smokers there are now bootleg. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2010 was lost because of smuggling. But this figure is very likely to rise dramatically since many states since enacted even higher levels of taxation.
The situation has formed a fertile ground for illegal cigarette trafficking and there have been inroads into organized crime. Sources of illegal cigarettes have been neighboring states where tax rates are lower, Native American reservations, and even foreign sources of the same brand names, often from Vietnam, Thailand, and Eastern Europe. Wholesale illegal supply chains are becoming increasingly significant. While cigarettes are otherwise available, albeit at a higher price, these states are beginning to see a softer form of prohibition. But there is also a very dark side to smoking bootleg cigarettes. Illegal cigarette trafficking has been used as a vehicle to channel money to foreign terrorist organizations. Are the benefits worth the costs inherited from high taxations?
Continue reading “The Smokeasy: Bootlegging Returns To America”
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In what is proffered to be helpful in the combat of prostitution and the underlying organized crime that often promotes this, members of the Honolulu, Hawaii police department have requested legislative authority to engage in sexual relations with prostitutes in order to further infiltrate the illegal profession.
This was an amendment to a bill that would expand the enforcement and prosecution of sex industry players that has passed the state House and is coming before a Senate committee.
Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act, and strict internal controls prohibit misconduct. But is this a novel idea to break up the sex traffic industry or one that may lead to exploitation of its vulnerable members?
Continue reading “Honolulu Police Department Asks State Legislature To Allow Officers To Have Sex With Prostitutes”