An exterior view shows the tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican bank, in Vatican City. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Vatican City - A powerful Italian cardinal on Tuesday denied a report that he pressured the Vatican bank into making a suspicious deal with a friend's television production company and the Vatican specified he was not under criminal investigation.

Germany's Bild Zeitung newspaper said the Vatican's Financial Information Authority was investigating a 15-million-euro ($21-million) deal by the Vatican bank with the Italian company Lux Vide owned by Ettore Bernabei.

The 79-year-old Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's former secretary of state and then head of the bank's oversight committee of cardinals told the Adnkronos news agency that the deal with Lux Vide had been regularly approved.

“The IOR convention with the company Lux Vide was discussed and approved by the committee of cardinals and by the supervisory board at a meeting on December 4, 2013 as shown by the minutes,” Bertone was quoted as saying.

The ANSA news agency also quoted Bertone as saying that there was “no problem linked to this operation”.

“I don't understand these attacks,” said Bertone, who was replaced last year by Pope Francis with Pietro Parolin as secretary of state - a role equivalent to prime minister.

“I am in harmony with the pope... He likes me,” he said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi later issued a terse statement saying: “There is no criminal investigation by Vatican prosecutors against Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone”.

He did not specify if there were any other types of investigation.

The Financial Information Authority on Monday said 202

suspicious transactions had been reported in 2013 due to increased controls at the Vatican bank Ä the Institute for Religious Works Ä compared to just six in 2012.

It also said that it had so far passed on five of the suspicious transaction reports to Vatican prosecutors for further investigation.

Contacted by AFP, Lux Vide declined to comment. The press service for the bank could not be reached.

Bertone was criticised last month over reports that he was moving into a 600-square-metre (6,500 square foot) Vatican apartment in apparent contradiction with Pope Francis's call for a “poor Church for the poor”.

The cardinal defended himself by saying that he was paying for the renovation work on the apartment out of his own pocket and that the size of the residence had been exaggerated and was in fact around 300 square metres.