MEPs have voted to return to the EU Commission its blacklist of countries deemed to be at risk of money laundering and terrorist financing. The list is too limited, they said, and should be expanded, so as to include territories that facilitate tax crimes, they said on Thursday.

In December, in the context of the implementation of the EU’s fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), the European Commission presented an updated list of high-risk third countries.
Under the directive, banks and other operators have to apply higher scrutiny and transparency standards when dealing with countries on the list due to the risks they pose regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. The Commission proposed to remove Guyana from the list and to add no new countries.

Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL) who prepared the resolution and is a co-rapporteur on the underlying legislation, said “the strength of the vote reflects the strength of feeling in Parliament about the inadequacy of this current list. We now hope that the Commission will be more ambitious in revisions, so as to create a blacklist which is fit-for-purpose.”

Krišjānis Karins (EPP, LV), another co-rapporteur on the underlying legislation, abstained in the vote, saying “A country should be placed on the “blacklist” only when there is clear evidence of a systematic threat of money laundering and terrorist financing. The Commission needs to have a straightforward and transparent algorithm that can withstand public scrutiny.”

The Commission lists eleven countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Syria, which it judges to be deficient in countering money laundering and terrorist financing. People and legal entities from blacklisted countries face tougher than usual checks when doing business in the EU.

Following the vote, an existing inventory of third countries thought to fall short in the area of anti-money laundering and terrorism finance will remain in force while the Commission considers any revisions.

The resolution was passed by 393 votes to 67 votes, with 210 abstentions.

The GUE/NGL group also immediately welcomed the rejection of the Commission’s insufficient blacklist of countries, saying there is a high risk of money laundering and terrorist financing.