Nigeria, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Panama were named in European Union (EU)blacklist of nations seen as posing a threat because of lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering, an executive said on Wednesday.
The move is part of a crackdown on money laundering after several scandals at EU banks but has been criticised by several EU countries including Britain worried about their economic relations with the listed states, notably Saudi Arabia.
Nigerian and Ghanaian officials are yet to react to the proposed blacklist.
The Saudi government said it regretted the decision in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, adding: “Saudi Arabia’s commitment to combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strategic priority”.
Despite pressure to exclude Riyadh from the list, the commission decided to list the kingdom, confirming a Reuters report in January.
Panama said it should be removed from the list because it recently adopted stronger rules against money laundering.
Apart from damage to a country’s reputation, inclusion on 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 list now includes 23 jurisdictions, up from 16. The commission said it added jurisdictions with “strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes”.
Other newcomers to the list are Libya, Botswana, Ghana, Samoa, the Bahamas and the four United States territories of American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The other listed states are Afghanistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.
Bosnia, Guyana, Laos, Uganda and Vanuatu were removed.
The criteria used to blacklist countries include low sanctions against money laundering and terrorism financing, insufficient cooperation with the EU on the matter and lack of transparency over the beneficial owners of companies and trusts.
Five of the listed countries are already included on a separate EU blacklist of tax havens. They are Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago and the three United States (U.S.) territories of American Samoa, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 28 EU member states now have one month, which can be extended to two, to endorse the list. They could reject it by qualified majority.