German financier named new president of Vatican bank

German financier Ernst von Freyberg was named the new president of the Vatican bank on Friday, ending a long vacancy after his predecessor at the secretive institution was unceremoniously sacked.

Von Freyberg, a trained lawyer, is chairman of the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg in northern Germany and an active member of the Knights of Malta.

From 1991 until 2012 he was chief executive of Frankfurt-based Daiwa Corporate Advisory, a consultancy mainly for financial institutions.

"This decision is the result of extensive evaluation and a series of interviews that the Commission of Cardinals has conducted, with the constant support of the Supervisory Board," the Vatican said in a statement.

"The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection process," it said.

The Vatican bank, officially called the Institute for Religious Works, has been rocked by a series of scandals over recent decades and its previous president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was sacked by the board in May 2012.

The Vatican is trying to implement reforms to put it on an international "white list" of countries that comply with legislation to combat money laundering but it is under investigation in Italy over suspicious transactions.