One of the pillars of the European Union's legislation to combat money laundering and terrorist financing is Directive (EU) 2015/849. According to this Directive, banks and other gatekeepers are required to apply enhanced vigilance in business relationships and transactions involving high-risk third countries. The types of enhanced vigilance requirements are basically extra checks and control measures which are defined in article 18a of the Directive.

New delegated act on high-risk third countries

On 7 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a new delegated regulation in relation to third countries which have strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes that pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union ('high-risk third countries'). Identification of such countries is a legal requirement stemming from Article 9 of Directive (EU) 2015/849 (4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive) and aiming at protecting the Union financial system and the proper functioning of the internal market. The delegated regulation amends delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1675.

The following jurisdictions are identified as having strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes:

High-risk third country Date of entry into force
Afghanistan 20 September 2016
The Bahamas not yet in force
Barbados not yet in force
Botswana not yet in force
Cambodia not yet in force
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) 20 September 2016
Ghana not yet in force
Iran 20 September 2016
Iraq 20 September 2016
Jamaica not yet in force
Mauritius not yet in force
Mongolia not yet in force
Myanmar not yet in force
Nicaragua not yet in force
Pakistan 2 October 2018
Panama not yet in force
Syria 20 September 2016
Trinidad and Tobago 14 February 2018
Uganda 20 September 2016
Vanuatu 20 September 2016
Yemen 20 September 2016
Zimbabwe not yet in force

A consolidated version of the EU list is available (with only measures that already entered into force).

Revised EU methodology for the identification of high-risk third countries

The Commission has also published a revised methodology for the identification of high-risk third countries. This methodology ensures that a robust, objective and transparent process is applied. The objective is to identify jurisdictions which have strategic deficiencies in their national AML/CFT regimes which pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union and hence the proper functioning of the internal market. Once identified, the Commission adopts delegated acts listing these jurisdictions.

This methodology was based following the adoption of a Roadmap.

The methodology describes the main steps, assessment criteria and follow-up.

The methodology provides that the Commission will consider FATF lists as a starting point and complement this by an autonomous assessment of additional countries using the following approach:

  • identify the risk profile and the level of threat to which the country is exposed
  • assess the legal framework and its effective application in 8 key areas – by analysing the countries measures on
  1. criminalisation of money laundering and terrorist financing;
  2. customer due diligence requirements, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions in the financial sector;
  3. the same requirements in the non-financial sector;
  4. the existence of dissuasive, proportionate and effective sanctions in case of breaches;
  5. the powers and procedures of competent authorities;
  6. their practice in international cooperation;
  7. the availability and exchange of information on beneficial ownership of legal persons and legal arrangements;
  8. implementation of targeted financial sanctions.
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The methodology was revised to ensure an increased engagement with third countries by

  1. consulting third countries on preliminary findings;
  2. drafting country-specific “EU benchmarks” to address each country’s concerns (identified on a preliminary basis) in relation to the criteria set by the Anti-Money Laundering Directive;
  3. seeking third countries’ commitment to implement specific corrective measures before a listing is considered;
  4. A deadline of 12 months would be given to third countries taking commitments to address concerns.

A listing occurs in case jurisdictions are not cooperative (i.e. refusing to express a commitment) or jurisdictions fail to implement the benchmarks within the agreed period. In case there is an overriding level of risk that needs to be mitigated and emergency situations, the Commission reserves the possibility to proceed immediately with identifying strategic deficiencies on the basis of the anti-money laundering Directive.

Here is an overview of the engagement approach with third countries based on an autonomous assessment.

Step-by-step implementation of the methodology

The following timeline displays the implementation of the methodology to identify high-risk third countries.

  • 2017

    Stage 1: Designing Phase

    • Preparation of a new methodology
    • International engagement
    • Engagement with the European Parliament and the Member States
  • 22 June 2018

    Adoption of the first methodology for identifying high risk third countries

  • 2018

    Stage 2: Initial scoping/selection phase

    • Pre-assessment of all third countries based on economic and socio-political criteria
    • Identification of Priority 1 (to be assessed by end of 2018) and Priority 2 (to be assessed progressively by 2025) countries
    • Publication of results of selection phase on 13 November 2018
  • 31 December 2018

    Stage 3: Assessment Phase – Priority 1 countries

    • Assessment of countries that have been identified as Priority 1 countries based on listing criteria using various information sources
  • 13 February 2019

    Adoption of new EU Delegated Act on high-risk third countries (based on first methodology) - rejected

  • 7 May 2020
  • 31.12.2025

    Stage 4: Assessment Phase – Priority 2 countries and follow up

    • Gradual assessment of remaining countries
    • Follow-up of countries listed following stage 3
    • Monitoring of reviewed countries

Objectives of the list on high-risk third countries

The objectives of the list can be subdivided into three principle goals:

Objectives of the List on high-risk third countries

The listing process

The listing process follows a staged approach that can be divided into four parts:

The listing process

Planning of assessment

The Commission carried out a pre-assessment to determine relevant countries to be assessed and the level of priority, in addition to those already listed by the Financial Action Task Force. Countries are considered relevant for the EU financial system in case they meet any of the following non-cumulative criteria:

  • a country is identified by the European External Action Service or by Europol as having a systemic impact on the integrity of the EU financial system;
  • a country was reviewed as an international offshore financial centres by the International Monetary Fund;
  • a country is considered as economically relevant based on the strength of the economic ties with the EU and the magnitude of its financial sector.

On this basis, the Commission identified 132 jurisdictions so far that will be further analyzed according to its methodology over the period 2018-2025. The list of 132 countries included in the scope.

With regard to the level of priority:

  • the Commission reviews as a matter of priority a first group of 54 jurisdiction (Priority 1 countries). The assessment is an ongoing exercise; hence any country will be reassessed when new relevant information sources become available;
  • the other jurisdictions (Priority 2 countries) will be assessed successively until 2025.
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Evolution of the EU list on high-risk third countries

Based on Directive (EU) 2015/849 and the Commission’s power of adopting delegated acts regarding high-risk third countries, the Commission adopted the following delegated acts:

Documents

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