EU mulls adding Saudi Arabia to new money laundering grey list

The European Union, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, may add the Arab kingdom to a money laundering grey list, five months after blacklisting it.

According to an EU confidential document, seen by Reuters, the bloc is preparing an overhaul of its listing of countries that pose money laundering risks, a move that will please the Arab kingdom.

Back in February, the oil-rich kingdom was added to the EU’s blacklist of 23 jurisdictions that represent a threat to the European bloc over Riyadh’s lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering.

The Saudi pressure, however, forced the EU states to strike down the list, the document says.

The European governments, led by the UK and France, are in fact fearful of the economic impact of the listing, which has infuriated Riyadh. They argue that the EU executive commission has given no chance to Saudi Arabia and other listed states to address concerns.

The commissioner in charge of the issue, Czech liberal Vera Jourova, has come up with a revised process to list countries, namely the grey-listing, after being required by EU rules to adopt a list.

The revised process would be based on a “staged approach” under which risk countries would need to commit to changing their rules and practices by set deadlines, the document said.

The so-called staged approach will effectively make a grey list of jurisdictions that will be blacklisted only if they failed to introduce required reforms.

The new listing could remove obstruction from EU states and settle fresh diplomatic rows with Saudi Arabia, the year before Riyadh hosts the G20 summit of the world’s 20 most industrialized countries in November 2020.

The move could also ease investors’ concerns regarding the reputational consequences of the listing.

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