Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Embassies Owing [Pounds Sterling]42m in C-Charge Fines Claim Diplomatic Immunity

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Embassies Owing [Pounds Sterling]42m in C-Charge Fines Claim Diplomatic Immunity

Article excerpt

Byline: Miranda Bryant and Girish Gupta

TRANSPORT bosses are chasing more than [pounds sterling]42 million in unpaid fines from foreign embassies who claim they should not have to pay the congestion charge, the Standard can reveal. Over 100 embassies still have outstanding penalty charge notices dating back seven years, but insist they should not pay because they are covered by diplomatic immunity.

The United States embassy tops the list owing [pounds sterling]4.2 million, followed by Russia at [pounds sterling]3.6 million and Japan and Germany who owe [pounds sterling]3 million each since the scheme was introduced in February 2003.

The embassies of Nigeria, India, Sudan, Poland and Ghana each owe more than [pounds sterling]1 million with the Spanish, French and Greek falling just below this figure. In total, 145 separate embassies owe TfL varying fines.

They claim the charge is a tax so they are exempt under the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 and the Consular Relations Act 1968. But transport bosses said the levy is a charge for a service.

The Mayor and Transport for London said negotiations with embassies have led some who previously refused to start paying the charge.

Uruguay, Columbia and New Zealand each owe just [pounds sterling]60. But non-paying embassies today remained defiant, saying TfL has "no legal ground".

A spokesman for the Russian embassy said: "We consider the payment of the congestion charge as a tax contravening the obligation of the receiving state to permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes, as provided for in the Clause 1 Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations signed and ratified by Britain in 1964. …

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