Panama rejects inclusion in EU dirty-money blacklist

Pedro Gonçalves
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Panama rejects inclusion in EU dirty-money blacklist

Panama has rejected  what it call its "unfair" inclusion in the EU's blacklist of countries that have weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regimes, and called for consultations to its ambassador to the European Union, Miguel Verzbolovskis.

"Panama strongly rejects the proposal of the European Commission to include the country in a list of jurisdictions of high-risk third countries," the office of President Juan Carlos Varela said in a statement.

The government added that "it will continue its efforts to establish a communication channel to clarify the concerns of the Commission", whose proposed list "must be submitted to the European Parliament for approval within a period of one month extendable".

Panama strongly rejects the proposal of the European Commission to include the country in a list of jurisdictions of high-risk third countries"

The government said Panama's diplomatic representative to the European Union, Miguel Verzbolovskis, would be called back for consultations about the list, which the EU says exists to protect its financial system from laundering and terrorist financing risks.

"Panama urges the European Commission to reconsider the unjust action taken against a country with a clear commitment in the fight against money laundering and the fight against the financing of terrorism", said the Panamanian executive in its official letter.

The European Commission added Saudi Arabia, Panama and Nigeria to the blacklist, which was adopted on Wednesday. The European Parliament is due to vote on the additions within 30 days.

"Being on this list means that we have concluded that doing financial and banking transactions with these countries could expose the European financial system to high risks of money laundering and terrorist financing", said European Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourová, who insisted that it is a "warning" and not "a system of sanctions", she explained at a press conference.

The full list includes Panama, Afghanistan, American Samoa, Bahamas, Botswana, North Korea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, the US Virgin Islands and Yemen.

The Panamanian Government stressed that it considers that "the process carried out by this European body in the preparation of the list has been opaque, since no interaction with Panama was generated as the third country subject to analysis".

In 2016, the country was hit by a huge leak of confidential financial data from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a case known as the "Panama Papers", which brought to light tax evasion by the rich and famous around of the world.