The Vatican's financial watchdog says it received 544 reports of suspicious financial transactions last year, thanks in large part to beefed-up efforts to flag potential tax cheats who are using the Vatican bank to hide money.

In its annual report, the Financial Information Authority said Thursday it passed 17 cases on to Vatican prosecutors for possible investigation, up from seven a year earlier. In December, European evaluators urged prosecutors to actually bring charges in some of those cases since no indictments have been handed down.

Since 2011, 36 out of 900 suspect transactions have been forwarded to prosecutors for possible follow-up.

The Vatican in 2010 created the financial watchdog to comply with international anti-money-laundering norms and in a bid to shed its image as a financially shady tax haven.