STRASBOURG – The European Union is open for business but cannot be naïve and needs to protect the EU financial system, Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Věra Jourová said in Strasbourg on February 13 after the Commission adopted its new list of 23 countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.

“The EU should not be a destination of money laundering,” Jourová told a press conference. The latest legislation also includes bitcoin. Jourová stressed that this is no sanctions system but the EU needs to keep its financial system safe and sound.

According to the Commission, as a result of the listing, banks and other entities covered by EU anti-money laundering rules will be required to apply increased checks on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions from these high-risk third countries to better identify any suspicious money flows.

Responding to a question from New Europe about coordination with EU member states to fight money laundering, Jourová told a press conference that there are commonly agreed rules for the banking sector and the obliged entities across the bloc and member states understand what must be done. “They have different bodies supervising the financial sector, so especially speaking about financial intelligence units which are very important elements in the whole system, we see very different structures, very different placement of these financial intelligence units in the state system so we’re not prescribing how the member states should do it. We’re prescribing the principles and the criteria which must be fulfilled to keep their financial system safe,” the Commissioner explained.

Anti-money laundering after Brexit

Asked about Brexit, Jourová told New Europe that London is fully committed to fighting money laundering. “As for the UK, the United Kingdom is with us in implementing and applying the anti-money laundering legislation and I expect that after Brexit they will continue to do so. There might come some modifications in their legal framework, of course, once they will become the third country, they will go their way but I’m sure the Brits will do their best to keep these strict rules in place because it’s the existential interest not only of the financial sector but also for the sake of security of people,” the Commissioner said.

According to Commission officials working on the list, a number of recent scandals propelled the Commission to decide to tighten the loopholes and crack down on money laundering in cooperation with the EU Member States and the European Parliament.

The Commission concluded that 23 countries have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing regimes. This includes 12 countries listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and 11 additional jurisdictions. Some of the countries listed on February 13 are already on the current EU list, which includes 16 countries. The 23 jurisdictions are: Afghanistan, American Samoa, The Bahamas, Botswana, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, US Virgin Islands, and Yemen.