The European commission addedSaudi Arabia,Panama,Nigeriaand other jurisdictions to a blacklist of nations seen as posing a threat because of lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering, the E.U. executive said on Wednesday.
The move is part of a crackdown on money laundering afterseveral scandals at E.U. banks but has been criticized by several E.U. countries includingBritain worried about their economic relations with the listed states, notably Saudi Arabia.
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”. Despite pressure to exclude Riyadh from the list, the commission decided to list the kingdom, confirming a Reuters report in January.
Panama said it should be removed from the list because it recently adopted stronger rules againstmoney laundering.
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. E.U. 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 E.U. 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.
Critics said the list fell short of including several countries involved inmoney laundering scandals in Europa.
“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 theUnited StatesandRussia.