BRUSSELS (Dispatches) – The European Union is preparing an overhaul of its listing of countries that pose money-laundering risks, an EU confidential document shows, a review that could allow the Saudi regime to be moved to a new grey list after having been briefly blacklisted.
The EU executive added the oil-rich kingdom in February to its blacklist of 23 jurisdictions that represent a threat to the bloc because of lax controls against terrorism financing and money laundering, but after Saudi pressure the list was struck down by EU states.
Fearful of the economic impact of that listing, European governments led by Britain and France said the EU executive commission had given no chance to Riyadh and other listed states to address concerns.
Required by EU rules to adopt a list, the commissioner in charge of the issue, Czech liberal Vera Jourova, went back to the drawing board and has now come up with a revised process to list countries.
Instead of directly blacklisting those with shortfalls, the new 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 seen by Reuters 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.
A man counts Saudi riyal banknotes at his jewelry shop in Tiba market in capital Riyadh, on October 3, 2016.