BRUSSELS/RIYADH: The European Commission has added Saudi Arabia to an EU draft list of countries that pose a threat to the bloc because of lax controls against terrorism financing and money laundering, two sources told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes amid heightened international pressure on Saudi Arabia after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2.
The EU’s list currently consists of 16 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Korea, and is mostly based on criteria used by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body composed by wealthy nations meant to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
But the list has been updated this week, using new criteria developed by the EU Commission since 2017. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries added to the updated list which is still confidential, one EU source and one Saudi source told Reuters.
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Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The move is a setback for Riyadh at a time when it is striving to bolster its international reputation in order to encourage foreign investors to participate in a huge transformation plan and improve financial ties for its banks.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents at its Istanbul consulate on October 2, provoking widespread revulsion and damaging the kingdom’s image.
Apart from reputational damages, the inclusion in the list complicates financial relations with the EU. The bloc’s banks will have to carry out additional checks on payments involving entities from listed jurisdictions.
The provisional decision needs to be endorsed by the 28 EU states before being formally adopted next week.