RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has worked to combat money laundering and terrorist financing for decades, Saad bin Mohammed Al-Arifi, the Kingdom’s EU envoy, said on Thursday. He added that all EU states were surprised by the blacklist of countries suspected of being lax on terrorist financing and money laundering.
Al-Arifi’s comments come after the 28 member states of the EU all backed a decision on Thursday to reject a proposal from the EU executive to add Saudi Arabia to the list.
EU states said in a statement the unanimous decision was taken because the European Commission’s proposed list was not established in a transparent process that encouraged countries to take action while also respected their right to be heard.
The decision will force the European Commission to prepare a new list.
“I’m disappointed, but I hope I don’t look like somebody who is giving up,” the EU commissioner in charge of the listing, Vera Jourova, said on Thursday.
The process had been conducted in a transparent manner and followed EU states’ commitments to act against money laundering and terrorism financing, she said.
The commission had published last month a provisional blacklist with 23 jurisdictions, including the four US territories of American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, in a move that Washington said was “flawed.”
Among other listed countries were Nigeria, Panama, Libya, the Bahamas, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Afghanistan.
In a hearing in the EU Parliament, Jourova this week said she was subjected to heavy lobbying by some countries affected by the decision.
Earlier, Salman Al-Ansari, founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, told Arab News that EU confirmation of the list would have caused damage in three areas.
“First, it would have degraded the Financial Action Task Force (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.”
He added: “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.”