Saudi Arabia is one of the countries the EU now considers an anti-money-laundering and terrorism-financing threat. Picture: iSTOCK
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries the EU now considers an anti-money-laundering and terrorism-financing threat. Picture: iSTOCK

Paris — An EU blacklist of nations it considers anti-money-laundering and terrorism-financing threats risks undermining the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the body’s head said on Friday.

The FATF is an inter-governmental organisation that underpins the fight against money-laundering and terrorism-financing by setting global standards and checking if countries respect them.

Earlier this month, the European Commission increased the number of countries on its list to 23 from 16, adding Saudi Arabia, Panama and four US territories in a move that was criticised by some EU countries, such as Britain.

After chairing an FATF meeting in Paris, Marshall Billingslea, the US assistant treasury secretary for terrorist-financing, said that a number of member countries have expressed “grave concern” about the EU list.

“Black and grey lists are always highly sensitive issues and they have to be handled carefully, and they should only be elaborated on a robust and transparent methodology,” he told journalists after the meeting.

Billingslea said that the FATF spends tens of thousands of hours working against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, and insisted that the body plays the “central role” on the issue.

“There are obvious questions as to whether [a] list elaborates outside of the FATF, or without our involvement or help, helps or undermines this leading role of our organisation,” he added.

Criteria the European Commission use to blacklist countries include weak sanctions against money-laundering and terrorism-financing, insufficient co-operation with the EU on the matter, and lack of transparency about the beneficial owners of companies and trusts. 

Reuters