Britain pushes to take Saudi Arabia off Europe’s dirty money blacklist
BRUSSELS: Britain is leading a group of European Union (EU) states who are trying to block a plan to include Saudi Arabia and 22 other jurisdictions on a blacklist of countries that pose moneylaundering and terrorism financing threats, sources said.
The EU’s executive commission recently adopted a draft list that adds Saudi Arabia, Panama and small Pacific and Caribbean islands to the existing list of 16 states, which currently includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Korea.
The list needs the endorsement of a majority of the 28 EU nations but Britain and other heavyweights of the bloc, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, are raising concerns, three EU officials told Reuters.
Two of the sources said EU states’ reluctance to endorse the list was mostly driven by concerns over the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and Panama on the list.
Listed countries face higher scrutiny in their financial dealings with the EU, with bloc’s banks forced to carry out additional checks on payments involving entities from those jurisdictions.
Britain is the country that is pushing more openly not to include Riyadh in the list, one official said, while Spain is insisting it excludes Panama.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is a top importer of EU products and weapons, while Panama is a major financial centre in Latin America with many EU firms involved in the multi-billion-dollar expansion of its trans-oceanic canal.
British officials were not immediately available for a comment.