The European Commission Wednesday proposed adding seven countries including Saudi Arabia to the EU’s money-laundering blacklist of governments that do too little to thwart the financing of terrorism and organized crime.
The move comes as tensions between Riyadh and European capitals are heightened over the murder last year of the columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The proposal must now be approved by the European Parliament and the 28 member states, with France and Britain against the new list.
The new countries targeted by the commission, including Saudi Arabia and Panama, would join another 16 already on this register – such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia and North Korea.
Inclusion on the list does not trigger sanctions, but it does oblige European banks to apply tighter controls on transactions with customers and institutions in those countries.
“We have put in place the highest standards in the world in the fight against money laundering,” said European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova.
“But we must ensure that dirty money from other countries does not end up in our financial system,” she told a press conference at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.
“Dirty money is the driving force behind organized crime and terrorism,” Jourova continued, urging countries on the list to “quickly remedy their shortcomings”.
A diplomat said objections to the new list were not linked to fallout from the Khashoggi murder and a desire to appease Saudi Arabia.
There is not “an opposition to the addition of a particular country,” but concerns over the “methodology” used.
MEP Eva Joly, a former investigating judge, welcomed the new list but suggested the commission “publish the country assessments in order to increase the transparency of the process and avoid accusations of political bargaining.”
European countries such as Cyprus or the United Kingdom should also be on the list, she said.