Saudi Arabia regrets EU money laundering list proposal

February 14, 2019
Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan arrives to attends the Euromoney conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 2, 2018 . AFP
Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan arrives to attends the Euromoney conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 2, 2018 . AFP

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia expressed regret on Thursday over the European Commission’s proposals to add it and six other countries to a money-laundering list of governments that do too little to thwart the financing of terrorism and organized crime.

The move is part of a crackdown on money laundering after several scandals at European Union banks, but it has been criticized 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 this move.

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the Kingdom said: "Saudi Arabia’s commitment to combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority”.

Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fighting money laundering and terrorism financing is a strategic priority for the Kingdom. “We will continue to develop and enhance our regulatory framework to achieve this goal. We note the proposed revised list is subject to approval of both the European Parliament and Council of Ministers”.

Al-Jadaan called on the EC officials and members of the European Parliament to visit Riyadh and observe the continuous efforts and initiatives taken by the Kingdom at the local, regional and international levels in the fight against terrorism-financing, and money laundering.

“Saudi Arabia will continue to communicate with the Commission and looks forward to a constructive dialogue with its partners in the European Union to contribute to strengthening and supporting the means of countering money laundering and terrorism at the international and regional levels,” he said.

On his part, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) Governor Ahmed Al- Kholifey said he did not expect the European Commission’s decision to add his country to a list of “high risk” countries to have any impact for now, Al-Arabiya reported.

The European Commission’s proposals revised list of “high risk” countries on money laundering and terror funding released on Feb. 13, that includes Saudi Arabia despite several measures of reinforcement of its legal framework which has led to increased cooperation with its counterparts, the statement said.

The Kingdom reaffirmed that it is strongly committed to the common fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, a commitment that it shares with its international partners and allies.

Saudi Arabia — a member of the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS and co-chair, with United States and Italy, of the CIFG (the Counter ISIS Financing Working Group ) — has implemented over the years important laws and procedures with the aim of fighting money laundering and terrorism financing and mitigating associated risks, the SPA statement pointed out.

In addition, the Mutual Evaluation Report on Saudi Arabia, published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in September 2018, commended Saudi Arabia on the level of its technical compliance with the FATF’s recommendations.

The FATF report showed that the Kingdom’s anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) preventive measures are strong and well established. The Kingdom has furthermore an established legal framework and co-ordination process for implementing UN targeted financial sanctions on terrorism without delay.

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.

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 FATF, which is the global standard-setter for anti-money laundering.

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".

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