While Riyadh wants to restore its image, the European Commission has reportedly included the kingdom in its list of countries that are too lax in the fight against terrorist financing. Paris, a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, has not reacted.
Reuters, citing corroborating sources, reported on 25 January that the European Commission reportedly added Saudi Arabia to its list of countries considered a threat to the European Union. A list that would remain confidential, according to the news agency. Like Afghanistan and Iran, the Saudi kingdom is singled out for its controls, which are considered too lax in the fight against terrorist financing and money laundering.
The list, which currently includes 16 countries, is based on criteria set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body established in 1989 to defend the “integrity of the international financial system” against “money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats”.
The addition of Saudi Arabia among these countries is the result of the European Commission’s taking into account new criteria it developed in 2017. So far, the Saudi authorities have not made any comments.
Riyadh is the subject of a complaint filed by several hundred families of victims of the attacks of 11 September 2001, who accuse Saudi officials of being involved in the attack.
The Commission’s decision, which however remains subject to the approval of the 28 EU Member States for formal adoption next week, will have an impact on trade and financial relations between the EU and Saudi Arabia. If the decision is approved, European banks will now have to undergo additional controls in order to make payments to Saudi banks.
And what about France in all this?
For the time being, the French authorities have not expressed their position on this subject. Paris is nevertheless an important trading partner of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the sale of arms, despite protests from humanitarian organisations about Riyadh’s role in the war in Yemen.
According to the newspaper Le Monde, which is based on the report to Parliament in 2018 on arms exports, “more than 11 billion euros of Saudi orders have been validated in nine years, an average of 1.2 billion euros per year”.
Riyadh has also been subjected to strong international pressure for several months since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
On 22 November, France adopted sanctions against 18 Saudi nationals suspected of being involved in the murder.