Foreign embassies owe the UK over £82m in car fines

Embassy car Russian
26 Jul, 2014 7:00am Joe Finnerty

The UK is owed a massive £82m debt in unpaid congestion charge and parking fines by foreign embassies and US is the worst offender

Foreign embassies owe the UK more than £82million in unpaid fines incurred by their vehicles on our roads, according to new figures revealed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Transport for London (TfL).

Diplomats have racked up an £82,001,682 debt on the London Congestion Charge since its introduction in February 2003. The US tops the list of offenders with a debt which stands at £8.7m – that’s £2.5m more than any other nation’s embassy.

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TfL said diplomats were not exempt and while two-thirds of embassies do pay, a “stubborn minority” refuse.

Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL general manager for congestion charging, said: “We and the UK Government are clear that the congestion charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. “We will continue to pursue all unpaid fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice.”

Congestion charge fines: who owes the most?

Embassy  

Outstanding CC fines

Embassy of the United States of America  

£8,775,965

Embassy of Japan  

£6,006,215

Embassy of the Russian Federation

£5,222,380

High Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 

£4,920,385

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany 

£3,992,900

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The parking fine bill for embassies in the UK for 2013 stood at £344,176, with more than 5,000 unpaid fines. Nigeria was the worst offender, and makes the top five for both parking fines and congestion charge debt. 

Mark Simmonds, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said his department had held face-to-face meetings with diplomats about the fines. He added: “In addition, in April we wrote to the diplomatic missions and international organisations concerned giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding parking fines or appeal against them if they considered the fines had been issued incorrectly.”

As a result, the unpaid parking fines total was reduced by almost £200,000 – with some councils waiving the fines and some embassies paying up.

Parking fines: who owes the most?

Embassy     

Outstanding parking fines

High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria

£74,557

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

£30,690

High Commission for the Republic of Zambia

£22,700

Embassy of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

£14,115

Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan

£13,375

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What is the UK policy on fines its diplomats inccur abroad?

Does Britain pay its fines abroad? A Foreign Office spokesman told us: “Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic missions have an obligation to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. This includes paying parking fines. The UK demands a high standard of behaviour of its own diplomats, and it is our own policy to pay fines when they are incurred.”

What's your view on the £82m in unpaid fines owed to the UK by foreign governments? Join the debate in our comments section...

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