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London pushes to take Saudis off EU dirty money blacklist: sources

Reuters  |  BRUSSELS 

By Francesco Guarascio

(Reuters) - Britain is leading a group of states who are trying to block an EU plan to include and 22 other jurisdictions on a blacklist of countries that pose money-laundering and terrorism financing threats, sources said.

The EU's commission adopted last month a draft list that adds Saudi Arabia, and small Pacific and islands to the existing list of 16 states, which currently includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and

The list needs the endorsement of a majority of the 28 EU nations but Britain and other heavyweights of the bloc, including Germany, France, and Spain, are raising concerns, three EU officials told

Two of the sources said EU states' reluctance to endorse the list was mostly driven by concerns over the inclusion of and on the list.

Listed countries face higher scrutiny in their financial dealings with the EU, with bloc's banks forced to carry out additional checks on payments involving entities from those jurisdictions.

Britain is the country that is pushing more openly not to include in the list, one said, while is insisting it excludes

Oil-rich is a top importer of EU products and weapons, while Panama is a major financial centre in with many EU firms involved in the multi-billion-dollar expansion of its trans-oceanic canal.

British officials were not immediately available for a comment. A declined to comment.

Countries are blacklisted if they "have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regimes that pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union," the existing EU list says.

Panama's to the EU Miguel Verzbolovskis said the country had reformed its anti-money laundering rules and urged the EU not to include Panama in the new list. officials were not immediately available for a comment.


Several EU states in a meeting of national envoys this week in called for more time to assess listed jurisdictions, the officials said. They resisted the EU Commission's plan to take control of the listing process.

This has so far been carried out by the (FATF), a global body composed by wealthy nations, including half of the EU countries. The existing EU list mirrors the FATF list of 16 states, while the new one would be expanded by imposing stricter criteria on countries to avoid listing.

EU states' pressure against the new listing has intensified after a meeting of EU and foreign ministers ended with no agreement on a joint statement on Monday, in a sign of worsening relations between the two blocs.

Relations between and Riyadh, which plays a prominent role in the Arab League, have grown colder after the murder of Saudi in the kingdom's on Oct. 2.

A team of diplomats has set up shop in Brussels to lobby against the listing, one EU and one source in Saudi Arabia said.

The EU official said the Saudis have threatened to cancel lucrative contracts in some EU countries.

Two senior officials of the said that Brussels was, however, not inclined to bend to pressure and would formally adopt the list, with Saudi Arabia in it, in the coming weeks.

EU states could however reject it within two months of its approval by qualified majority.

(Reporting by in Brussels; additional reporting by in and Belen Carreno in Madrid; Editing by Toby Chopra)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 08 2019. 16:52 IST