Haiti, Malta, Philippines, and South Sudan were placed Friday on a “grey list” of countries under increased monitoring to counter money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Financial Action Task Force, an international organization that coordinates global efforts to crack down on money laundering and terrorism financing, said nations on the list are working with it to correct deficiencies in their financial systems.
The additions bring to 22 the number of countries currently under increased monitoring by the intergovernmental watchdog, which was created in 1989.
Malta becomes the only EU nation on the list dominated by African and Central American and Caribbean countries.
Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela earlier this week criticised the FATF’s decision, but he pledged to improve oversight on financial crimes.
“While I consider this decision as one which is unjust, our country will continue to build on the many reforms we have already done,” Abela said.
“Instead of complaining, we will see this challenge as an opportunity,” he told journalists, pledging to respect the watchdog’s decision.
The move comes one month after the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body, Moneyval, cited Malta’s improvement in combating money laundering, according the country higher international compliance ratings in certain areas.
Inclusion on the list can have negative consequences, making it more difficult to attract foreign investment.
For Malta, it could hit its gaming and banking sectors which are key to the economy.
Malta has long been dogged by charges of laxity on corruption, the focus of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigations before her 2017 murder.
Two senior politicians were forced to step down following the 2016 international Panama Papers scandal that revealed widespread corruption and financial crime.
On Friday, the FATF removed Ghana from its grey list.
The FATF did not add or remove any countries from its “blacklist” of countries whose efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are seen as seriously lacking.
Only Iran and North Korea are on the FATF’s blacklist.
Nations are urged to take steps to apply measures to protect the international financial system from risks from blacklist countries.