The European Commission has added Saudi Arabia, among others, to a blacklist of countries with lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering, sparking an angry reaction from the Riyadh regime.
On Wednesday, the commission, the European Union’s executive arm, updated its list to 23 financial jurisdictions, up from the previous 16.
It said that the 23 countries “have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering/ counter terrorist financing regimes. This includes 12 countries listed by the Financial Action Task Force and 11 additional jurisdictions.”
The blacklist complicates financial ties with the EU and requires its banks and other entities to apply increased checks (due diligence) on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions from the high-risk states.
Now, the 28 EU states have one month, which can be extended to two, to endorse the blacklist.
Vera Jourova, European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, predicted that the EU countries would approve the list.
“We have established the strongest anti-money laundering standards in the world, but we have to make sure that dirty money from other countries does not find its way to our financial system,” she told a news conference in the French city of Strasbourg.
“Dirty money is the lifeblood of organized crime and terrorism,” she said, calling on the blacklisted countries to “swiftly remedy their deficiencies.”
Saudi Arabia has been widely criticized for allowing a flow of money to finance Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc the region.
Riyadh regrets blacklist
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Thursday, Saudi Arabia expressed “regret” over the European Commission’s decision to add the kingdom to the blacklist.
“Saudi Arabia notes with regret the European Commission proposed revised list of ‘high risk’ countries on money laundering and the financing of terrorism released on 13th February, 2019 that includes Saudi Arabia despite several measures of reinforcement of its legal framework which has led to increased cooperation with its counterparts,” it said.
It also claimed that Riyadh “is strongly committed to the common fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.”