Money laundering : saudi Arabia in the viewfinder of the EU, full-voltage diplomatic

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Brussels has proposed to add seven countries, in particular saudi Arabia, to its “black list” in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, an initiative that Ryad said immediately “sorry.”

This initiative of the european Commission adopted Wednesday, comes at a time of tensions with Riyadh in the wake of the case of Khashoggi.

The proposal must still receive the green light from the european Parliament and of the countries of the Union, some of whom, such as France and the United Kingdom have expressed reservations about this new list of 23 countries with “high risk”.

“The commitment of saudi Arabia in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority for the Kingdom. We will continue to develop and improve our regulatory framework to achieve this objective”, said the minister of Finance of saudi arabia Mohammed Al-Jadaan, quoted on Thursday by the agency official saudi SPA.

The new target countries, with among them saudi Arabia and Panama, in addition to the 16 that were already on the register – such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan or even Ethiopia, and North Korea – the objective of which is to “protect the financial system of the EU”.

“We have put in place the most stringent standards in the world in terms of the fight against money laundering”, pointed out the european commissioner in charge of the questions of justice, Vera Jourova.

“But we need to ensure that the dirty money from other countries is not reflected in our financial system,” she added at a press conference at the european Parliament, meeting in plenary session in Strasbourg.

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The fact of being on this list does not trigger any sanctions, but it is forcing european banks to apply tighter controls on the financial transactions with clients or financial institutions in these countries.

Over fifty countries switched to the magnifier, the Commission has concluded that 23 had “strategic deficiencies” in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Nearly half do not appear on the list established by the financial action task force (Fatf), responsible for coordinating the international efforts to consolidate the international financial system.

“Sensitive topic”

The initiative of the european executive does not have unanimous support within the EU.

The reluctance of capitals like Paris or London are interpreted by some as a desire not to sour relations with some countries. Especially those with saudi Arabia, particularly strained since the assassination of the journalist saudi Jamal Khashoggi.

Committed at the beginning of October, in the consulate of his country in Istanbul by a commando come of Riyadh, this crime has deeply tarnished the image of saudi leaders, and caused strong tensions with the western capitals.

It is not “opposition to the addition of such or such country”, has however said a diplomatic source, saying that the reservations of some were rather “methodology” evaluation of the Commission. This leads to results different from those of the Fatf, whose expertise, however, authority, added the source.

Countries who wish to oppose the new “black list” have a one-month period (possibility of an extension of a month to assemble a qualified majority of member States hostile to it.

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“Honestly, I don’t think there will be a qualified majority against the Commission’, said Wednesday the commissioner Jourova, who said, “to understand the reactions of certain member States”.

“It is a subject that is highly sensitive from the political point of view” and “there are relations of member States with those third countries”, but “I hope that european countries will understand the necessity of this process”, she added.

Mep Eva Joly (Greens), former judge of instruction, was hailed by its side the new list proposed by Brussels, called “the progress to combat the dirty money”.

“The Commission must, however, publish the assessments of countries in order to strengthen the transparency of the process and avoid accusations of political bargaining”, said Mrs. Joly. She also requested that some european countries such as Cyprus or the Uk are also put under the ban.

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