By Arab News
Saudi Arabia has expressed its regret about the decision by the European Commission to place the Kingdom on a blacklist of 23 non-EU countries and territories accused of posing a high risk of money laundering and financing terrorism. In response, Saudi authorities highlighted the efforts being made by the Kingdom to combat such crimes.
“The Kingdom finds it it regrettable that it was included in the proposed list of ‘high-risk’ countries for money laundering and terrorist financing that was issued by the European Commission on Feb. 13, 2019,” Saudi authorities said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Association.
“This comes despite the Kingdom’s ratification of many laws and procedures relating to combating money laundering and terrorist financing, to reduce the risks associated with such crimes.”
It added that the Kingdom reaffirms its strong commitment to the joint global efforts to combat money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, as part of which it works with international partners and allies.
“Saudi Arabia, who is a key partner in the international coalition against Daesh, has been leading a group, along with the United States and Italy, to fight the financing of the group,” the statement continued.
“The Saudi Mutual Evaluation Report, published by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in September 2018, praised Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the group’s recommendations. The FATF report stated that the Kingdom’s preventive measures against money laundering and terrorist financing are strong and robust.”
The Kingdom has a legal framework and coordinated procedures in place for the swift implementation of targeted financial sanctions imposed by the United Nations, it added.
“Saudi Arabia’s commitment to combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority and we will continue to develop and improve our regulatory and legislative frameworks to achieve this goal,” said Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Saudi minister of finance.
“The announcement by the European Commission that the Kingdom will be included in the proposed list of high-risk countries for money laundering and terrorist financing will have to pass the voting stage in the European Parliament before it becomes effective.”
The minister invited European Commission officials and members of the European Parliament to visit Riyadh to learn about the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts and initiatives to combat money-laundering and the financing of terrorism at local, regional and international levels.
Al-Jadaan added that The Kingdom looks forward to a constructive dialogue with its partners in the European Union to help strengthen and support efforts to combat the flow of ‘dirty money.’
The Saudi response came just hours after the US Treasury on Wednesday expressed “significant concerns” about the substance of the European Commission list, which was released the previous day. It pointed out that the FATF is the global standard-setting body for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing, and that the task force — the members of which include the US, the European Commission, 15 EU member states and 20 other jurisdictions —already compiles a list of high-risk countries as part of a careful and comprehensive process.
The Treasury said the EU commission had not given the listed countries sufficient time to discuss regulations, and added that it did not expect US financial institutions to take the EU list into account when deciding policies and procedures.
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said on Wednesday that the list, which also includes countries such as North Korea and Nigeria, will help to increase checks and investigations on financial operations to find “suspicious money flows.”
“We have to make sure that dirty money from other countries does not find its way to our financial system,” she said. “Europe cannot be a laundromat for dirty money.”
The list will now go to the European Parliament and member states for approval over the next few weeks.