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UK leading attempts to remove Saudi Arabia from EU dirty money blacklist: Report

Saudi Arabia is included on a updated draft of the EU blacklist [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2019

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Britain is reportedly leading attempts to have Saudi Arabia removed from an updated EU blacklist of nations that pose money laundering and terror financing threats.

A group of countries, led by the UK, is attempting to block a plan by the European Union to include Saudi Arabia along with 22 other jurisdictions on a blacklist of countries that pose terrorism financing and money laundering threats.

A draft of the blacklist - which added Saudi Arabia, Panama and several Pacific and Caribbean islands to an existing list of 16 - was adopted by the EU last month.

According to three EU officials who spoke to Reuters, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the key EU states attempting to prevent a majority of the 28-member bloc from ensorsing the updated blacklist. 

The anonymous sources said that the UK-led group is chiefly concerned by the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and Panama.  

The EU's current list is made up of 16 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Korea.

The former list was based on the criteria set out by the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] - body developed to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The updated list follows new criteria developed by the EU Commission in 2017.

Countries are blacklisted if they "have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regimes that pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union", the existing EU list said.

The move is considered a setback for Riyadh, which is still reeling from damaged image following the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was murdered on 2 October in Turkey in what Saudi Arabia called a "rogue" operation, tipping the kingdom into one of its worst diplomatic crises.

Inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the list will cause further damage to the kingdom's reputation as well as complicate financial relations with EU states.

The EU is due to approve the updated list next week.

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