Money-Laundering Blacklist: Saudi Pressure & EU Members’ Opposition Intensifies

Written by | Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

EU member states are very likely to block the adoption of an EU money-laundering blacklist, which includes Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands and Guam (all US territories) after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent letters to all EU leaders urging them to reconsider the inclusion of his country on the blacklist. To block the list, a majority of 21 states is needed and according to internal sources, more than 20 countries have already said they had opposed the listing. “An overwhelming majority” of EU states oppose the list, an official commented.

In his letter, the Saudi King said that the blacklist “will damage [the Kingdom’s] reputation on the one hand and it will create difficulties in trade and investment flows between the Kingdom and the European Union on the other”. Saudi Arabia is a major oil exporter and importer of EU weapons and goods, to explain the emphasis on the reputation. In the meantime, the White House said that if the list was to be approved by the European Commission, then the listing process itself was in any case “flawed”, which is why Washington rejects the inclusion of the US territories.

During a high-profile meeting last week of EU and Arab League leaders in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Saudi lobbying intensified. At that meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May teamed up with French leadership, thus leading the group that is opposed to the kingdom’s inclusion on the list. The Saudi pressure got stronger following that meeting when EU ambassadors gathered at the finance ministry to specifically address this blacklist. The Kingdom said it would suspend contracts with EU states if the list were approved, an EU official said. “They are really rolling out big guns,” another diplomat said. The blacklist was introduced in February in line with EU regulations to prevent money laundering and as part of a process agreed with EU states since last summer.


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