Europe throws out plan to blacklist Saudi Arabia for money laundering

The statement is expected to be formally adopted by justice and home affairs ministers meeting on Thursday. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 March 2019

Europe throws out plan to blacklist Saudi Arabia for money laundering

  • EU members vote unanimously to reject proposal
  • Placing KSA on list ‘laughable,’ analyst tells Arab News

JEDDAH: Europe on Friday threw out plans to place Saudi Arabia on a blacklist of “high-risk” countries for terrorism financing and money laundering.

The blacklist was proposed in February by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, but required majority approval by the bloc’s member states. All 28 voted unanimously to reject it.

“We cannot support the current proposal that was not established in a transparent and credible process,” the member states said.

The provisional list contained 23 states and territories, including four administered by the US — American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.

For the first time, the European Commission proposed different criteria from those used by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which sets the global standard against money laundering. The FATF list is smaller, and includes Iran but not Saudi Arabia.

Under the new methodology, countries could be blacklisted if they do not provide sufficient information on company ownership or if their rules on reporting suspicious transactions or monitoring customers are considered too lax. 

Inclusion on the EU list would not trigger sanctions, but would require European banks to apply tighter controls on transactions with customers and institutions in those countries.

EU confirmation of the list proposed by the Commission would have caused damage in three areas, Salman Al-Ansari, founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, told Arab News.

“First, it would have degraded the FATF,” he said. “Second, it would have harmed the EU’s reputation and made its lists politicized rather than authentic and legitimate.

“Third, it would have greatly damaged the EU’s financial interests with their biggest trading partner in the Middle East.”

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, said the Kingdom “should never have been put there in the first place.”

No other country had taken the steps Saudi Arabia had taken to counter terrorism, Al-Shehri said. “We have been in the forefront of fighting terrorism in myriad ways, including by cutting off financing. To put Saudi Arabia on that list is laughable.”

Countries “inimical to the interests of Saudi Arabia,” such as Iran and Qatar, were whipping up anti-Saudi hysteria in the West, he said. “They are not able to digest the fact that Saudi Arabia has emerged as a beacon of stability and a force for good in the Arab world and the Middle East. Europe and the rest of the world must not fall for such vicious propaganda and must see through the shenanigans of Qatar and Iran.”

Saudi education minister praises teacher continuing mission to educate while battling cancer

Updated 22 min 14 sec ago

Saudi education minister praises teacher continuing mission to educate while battling cancer

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Education, Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh, called to give thanks to school teacher Mohammed Al-Fifi who has continued to teach his students while battling cancer in hospital.

The Saudi minister praised Al-Fifi’s efforts to educate students despite his chemotherapy treatment in hospital and wished him a speedy recovery.

The Saudi minister thanked Al-Fifi during the video call and said he was a role model for those in the field of education.

Al-Sheikh also praised other teachers in the Kingdom for their efforts, calling the foundation of society.

Al-Fifi, 37, is a third-grade Arabic language teacher at Abu Omar Al-Dany Elementary in Riyadh’s Al-Uraija Al-Gharbiyah area.

In May, doctors told him they had found cancer in his lymph nodes, and he was admitted to the hospital soon after to begin chemotherapy.

Four treatments later, he is doing well but faces a long, hard battle.