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Lawmakers reject EU laundering blacklist, want tax havens included

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers rejected on Thursday an EU blacklist of ten countries at risk of facilitating money laundering or terrorist financing on the grounds that the list is too short and needs to be expanded to include tax havens.

In a bid to cut terrorist funding after January 2015 attacks on French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the EU adopted stricter rules against money laundering and began naming countries with legal loopholes that could be exploited by militant organizations to get funding.

In a legal document passed by 393 votes to 67, with 210 abstentions, the Parliament rejected the list saying it was too limited.

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North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Laos, Syria, Uganda, Vanuatu and Yemen are in the latest EU blacklist drafted by the EU executive commission. Businesses with activities in these countries are subject to higher checks in Europe.

"In light of recent leaks revealing money laundering and tax crimes, it is ridiculous that Panama and other famous havens for dirty money are still not on the Commission's blacklist," Greens lawmaker Sven Giegold said.

The conservatives, the largest group in the Parliament, abstained from the vote.

"A country should be placed on the 'blacklist' only when there is clear evidence of a systematic threat of money laundering and terrorist financing," said center-right MEP Krisjanis Karins.

The Parliamentary vote annuls the latest list adopted in November, but does not affect the previous blacklist which included all countries currently listed and also Guyana. The Latin American state was deleted because it had plugged legal loopholes that made money laundering possible.

A Commission official said work to name tax havens is in progress but does not concern the anti-money laundering list, ruling out imminent changes after the Parliament vote.

Under pressure from revelations on widespread tax avoidance, EU states agreed to establish a blacklist of tax havens by the end of this year, although critics say the list may turn out to include none of the top countries helping taxpayers avoid their bills.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)