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EU adds Saudi Arabia to dirty-money blacklist, upsets UK, U.S.


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EU adds Saudi Arabia to dirty-money blacklist, upsets UK, U.S.

By Francesco Guarascio

 

2019-02-13T131033Z_1_LYNXNPEF1C0XY_RTROPTP_4_EU-SAUDI-MONEYLAUNDERING.JPG

Main entrance of the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Files

 

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Commission added Saudi Arabia, Panama and four U.S. territories to a blacklist of nations it considers a threat because of lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering, the EU executive said on Wednesday.

 

The move is part of a crackdown on money laundering after several scandals at EU banks, but it has been criticised by several EU countries, including Britain, that are worried about their economic relations with the listed states, notably Saudi Arabia. The United States has also disapproved.

 

The Saudi government said it regretted the decision in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, adding: "Saudi Arabia's commitment to combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority".

 

Panama said it should be removed from the list because it recently adopted stronger rules against money laundering.

 

Despite pressure to exclude Riyadh from the list, the commission decided to list the kingdom, confirming a Reuters report in January.

 

Apart from reputational damage, inclusion on the list complicates financial relations with the EU. The bloc's banks will have to carry out additional checks on payments involving entities from listed jurisdictions.

 

The list now includes 23 jurisdictions, up from 16. The commission said it added jurisdictions with "strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes".

 

Other newcomers to the list are Libya, Botswana, Ghana, Samoa, the Bahamas and the four United States territories of American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.

 

The U.S. Treasury said the listing process was "flawed" and rejected the inclusion of the four U.S. territories on the list.

 

The other listed states are Afghanistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

 

Bosnia, Guyana, Laos, Uganda and Vanuatu were removed.

 

BAD FOR BUSINESS?

The 28 EU member states now have one month, which can be extended to two, to endorse the list. They could reject it by qualified majority. EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova, who proposed the list, told a news conference that she was confident states would not block it.

 

She said it was urgent to act because "risks spread like wildfire in the banking sector".

 

But concerns remain. Britain, which plans to leave the EU on March 29, said on Wednesday the list could "confuse businesses" because it diverges from a smaller listing compiled by its Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is the global standard-setter for anti-money laundering.

 

The FATF list includes 12 jurisdictions - all on the EU blacklist - but excludes Saudi Arabia, Panama and U.S. territories. The FATF will update its list next week.

 

London has led a pushback against the EU list in past days, and at closed-door meetings urged the exclusion of Saudi Arabia, EU sources told Reuters.

 

The oil-rich kingdom is a major importer of goods and weapons from the EU and several top British banks have operations in the country. Royal Bank of Scotland is the European bank with the largest turnover in Saudi Arabia, with around 150 million euros ($169 million) in 2015, according to public data.

 

HSBC is Europe's most successful bank in Riyadh. It booked profits of 450 million euros in 2015 in the kingdom but disclosed no turnover and has no employees there, according to public data released under EU rules.

 

"The UK will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that the list that comes into force provides certainty to businesses and is as effective as possible at tackling illicit finance," a British Treasury spokesman said.

 

MISSING "WASHING MACHINES"

Criteria used to blacklist countries include weak sanctions against money laundering and terrorism financing, insufficient cooperation with the EU on the matter and lack of transparency about the beneficial owners of companies and trusts.

 

Five of the listed countries are already included on a separate EU blacklist of tax havens. They are Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago and the three U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Critics said the list fell short of including several countries involved in money-laundering scandals in Europe.

 

"Some of the biggest dirty-money washing machines are still missing. These include Russia, the City of London and its offshore territories, as well as Azerbaijan," said Greens lawmaker Sven Giegold, who sits in the European Parliament special committee on financial crimes.

 

Jourova said the commission will continue monitoring other jurisdictions not yet listed. Among the states that will be closely monitored are the United States and Russia.

 

($1 = 0.8861 euros)

 

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Mohamed El-Sherif in Cairo; Writing by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; editing by Mark Heinrich and Rosalba O'Brien)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-02-14
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18 hours ago, webfact said:

The Saudi government said: "Saudi Arabia's commitment to combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority".

adding: "The premeditated murder of the Kingdom's critics is another priority."

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This is brilliant. No doubt the House of Saud continues to be one of the world's biggest sponsor of terror worldwide. They are as black as black gets. And now, MBS has revealed himself as a serial killer. Saudi is an outlaw, despot nation. Without their oil, the world would not even be aware of them. The US and the UK are not courageous enough, and are compromised to the point where they cannot even state the truth. Someone has to say something. 

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4 minutes ago, Laughing Gravy said:

For once I agree with the EU with regards to Saudi Arabia. Will they now follow their own policy and start to be transparent with their own MEP's and financial transactions.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/25/mep-expenses-eu-court-ruling

 

Calling the kettle black.

Perhaps that’s a question you should put to your man Farage.

 

It is however off topic here.

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37 minutes ago, Chomper Higgot said:

Perhaps that’s a question you should put to your man Farage.

 

It is however off topic here.

It is very relevant to the topic as one entity (EU) is calling out other countries for 'poor practice', which then ignores itself.  

 

Whilst I will admit there are enough threads on the EU anyway and I don't want to use this one to discuss the shortfalls of the hypocritical EU. But well done on calling out Saudi Arabia.

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good move. saudis are total bigots and a staunch supporter of wahhabi terrorism. no respect for human rights too.

But i wonder; why USA is not in the list? its territories are in the list therefore USA needs to be in the list as well.

 

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3 hours ago, Pedrogaz said:

I would love to be smoking what the UK and US are smoking. Apart from the US, the Saudis are the biggest sponsors of terror in the world.

Oddly, the sponsors of 9-11 world trade center attack, and yet my government gives them a pass on murder of a journalist and those in the towers.

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1 hour ago, ReMarKable said:

Oddly, the sponsors of 9-11 world trade center attack, and yet my government gives them a pass on murder of a journalist and those in the towers.

Just recently it has come to light that quite a few Saudis have committed serious crimes in the U.S. only to be privately jetted out when released on bail. Their abrupt departures (similar to when the bin ladens were allowed to leave after 9/11) really points to some high level manipulations. I think the American public will be appalled when the reasoning behind all this gets to be finally known. IMO it is more than just the oil and money. 

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52 minutes ago, from the home of CC said:

Just recently it has come to light that quite a few Saudis have committed serious crimes in the U.S. only to be privately jetted out when released on bail. Their abrupt departures (similar to when the bin ladens were allowed to leave after 9/11) really points to some high level manipulations. I think the American public will be appalled when the reasoning behind all this gets to be finally known. IMO it is more than just the oil and money. 

Then what do you think it is?  Treason?

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8 minutes ago, ReMarKable said:

Then what do you think it is?  Treason?

 Just to be clear I'm not a big conspiracy theory fan but imo the saudis have something on the states, and it would have to be substantial to negate the effect of the reporters murder and all the other transgressions (if you research it it's amazing what they have gotten away with). It appears the saudis hold some type of leverage (other than oil/money) that allows them basically free reign in the free world. Maybe they were co workers on a 'project' that would be embarrassing/destabilizing  if the facts came out. Something really doesn't add up.

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