Foreign diplomats have stacked up more than £118.5m worth of motoring charges in Britain


Foreign diplomats have stacked up more than £118.5million in unpaid Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) fees and around £1.4million in parking-related penalty charge notices (PCNs), records show.

Figures provided by Transport for London revealed which embassies have the highest outstanding CCZ charges, and the US tops the list with £12.6million. 

And a stipulation in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations means Britain is unlikely to see a penny of the money.

What do foreign embassies owe in motoring charges and fines? Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from paying motoring fines in their host country. Charges racked up by Qatar diplomats, for instance, amount to £47,540

What do foreign embassies owe in motoring charges and fines? Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from paying motoring fines in their host country. Charges racked up by Qatar diplomats, for instance, amount to £47,540

Outstanding congestion charges go back to 2003 when they were first introduced while most parking PCNs go back as far as 2013.  

TfL said at the end of March 2019 the total CCZ sum owed by embassies was £118,543,795.

Around £2million of this has been racked up in the first three months of this year, with the transport group saying around £116.5million was owed on 31 December 2018.

To put this figure into context, TfL made £155.9million from congestion charge payments and fines last year. 

It means that unpaid embassy fines represent significant lost revenue for TfL which, by law, has to re-invest earnings into London transport networks in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

And the chances of the UK collecting these outstanding payments are slim, due to a long-standing UN agreement. 

Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from paying taxes in their host country. 

This means – in the eye of diplomats – they legally don’t have to pay congestion charge fees or parking fines.

However, TfL states that these are ‘services’ and not taxes, and therefore embassies should not be able to skip payment. 

Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL’s general manager for road user charging, said: ‘We are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that foreign diplomats are not exempt from paying it.

‘We continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices.’ 

The American Embassy is the worst offender, racking up £12,598,845 in CCZ debt.

According to Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) figures given to Hippo Leasing – which issued a freedom of information request – the US Embassy also owes £3,765 in unpaid parking PCNs.

TOP 10 EMBASSIES THAT HAVE RACKED UP THE MOST CONGESTION CHARGE ZONE DEBT SINCE 2003
Embassy CCZ debt
American Embassy £12,598,845
Embassy of Japan £8,631,690
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria £7,149,725
Office of the High Commissioner for India £6,196,465
Embassy of the Russian Federation £5,736,105
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China £5,270,840
Embassy of the Republic of Poland £4,411,440
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany £4,394,770
Office of the High Commissioner for Ghana £4,039,215
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan £3,422,985
Source: TfL (for 2003 to 31 March 2019) – FULL LIST AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
The Russian Embassy hasn't paid £5.7million it owes in Congestion Zone charges and parking fines

The Russian Embassy hasn’t paid £5.7million it owes in Congestion Zone charges and parking fines

Japan, Nigeria, Russia and India complete the top five list of embassies with the highest unpaid congestion charge bills.

Diplomats representing all of these countries (and China) have accrued TfL debts in excess of £5million, the transport organisation says. 

The High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria owes the highest amount in unpaid parking fines.

According to FOC figures for the end of 2017, these total a staggering £272,740.

EMBASSIES THAT OWE THE MOST FOR UNPAID PARKING PCNS
Embassy  Parking Fines owed
Nigeria (High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria)  £272,740 
Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan  £159,454 
High Commission for the Republic of Zambia  £90,807 
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia  £86,696 
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan  £48,824 
Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  £46,435 
Embassy of the Republic of Côte D’Ivoire  £44,816 
Malaysian High Commission  £37,035 
Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan  £34.050 
Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman  £29.345 
Source: Hippo Leasing (data supplied by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – 2017)

Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing, said the amount of unpaid fines could increase following the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in the capital.

‘While some argue diplomatic immunity is an outdated principle and open to exploitation, foreign officials remain under no legal obligation to pay their motoring fines,’ Preston said.

‘Total debts are only set to increase following the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April, designed to cut traffic further and help clean up the dangerously polluted air in London. 

‘As well as looking at the economic impact of foreign diplomats driving in the Capital, it’s important to consider the environmental and public health costs too.’ 

TfL said this is unlikely to be the case, though. That’s because most embassies use leased vehicles when visiting other countries, which means almost all cars would meet the existing ULEZ standards and therefore avoid charges. 

A black BMW 7 Series parked outside the Latvian embassy in London

A black BMW 7 Series parked outside the Latvian embassy in London

But while diplomatic immunity means embassies are refusing to cough up, some are still paying them out of goodwill.

According to the FCO data, diplomats of three UK embassies (Central African Republic, New Zealand and Paraguay) owe absolutely nothing, having consistently settled their accrued debts over the years.

That doesn’t quite correlate with what TfL says, though.

It states that only the New Zealand High Commission owes nothing for CCZ fees.

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Hippo Leasing has created a map infographic to display which nations owe what. 

HOW MUCH EACH EMBASSY OWES FOR NON PAYMENT OF CONGESTION CHARGE SINCE 2003 
Embassy CCZ debt
American Embassy £12,598,845
Embassy of Japan £8,631,690
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria £7,149,725
Office of the High Commissioner for India £6,196,465
Embassy of the Russian Federation £5,736,105
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China £5,270,840
Embassy of the Republic of Poland £4,411,440
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany £4,394,770
Office of the High Commissioner for Ghana £4,039,215
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan £3,422,985
The Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan £3,408,460
Kenya High Commission £2,796,040
High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan £2,345,310
French Embassy £2,292,160
Embassy of the Republic of Korea £2,052,360
High Commission for the United Republic of Tanzania £2,044,030
Spanish Embassy £1,992,200
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba £1,853,120
Embassy of Algeria £1,772,550
High Commission for the Republic of South Africa £1,667,440
Embassy of Romania £1,642,240
Sierra Leone High Commission £1,609,535
Embassy of Ukraine £1,479,910
Embassy of Greece £1,464,930
Cyprus High Commission £1,174,710
Embassy of the Republic of Hungary £1,157,960
High Commission for the Republic of Zambia £1,029,410
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen £955,820
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria £846,550
Turkish Embassy £799,360
Botswana High Commission £786,920
High Commission for the Republic of Malawi £725,585
High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon £723,740
High Commission of the Republic of Mozambique £716,880
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus £704,645
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia £676,870
High Commission for the Republic of Zimbabwe £656,505
Embassy of the Slovak Republic £656,460
High Commission for the Republic of Namibia £652,310
Embassy of the Republic of Côte D`Ivoire £650,460
Kingdom of Swaziland High Commission £645,790
Malta High Commission £603,215
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania £592,585
Mauritius High Commission £568,455
Austrian Embassy £561,380
Embassy of the Republic of Liberia £551,550
Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea £543,290
Uganda High Commission £530,140
High Commission of the Kingdom of Lesotho £493,880
Belgian Embassy £476,500
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco £439,870
Embassy of the Czech Republic £428,750
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam £428,680
Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan £419,640
High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka £414,440
Jamaican High Commission £390,300
Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo £374,880
Royal Danish Embassy £371,515
Tunisian Embassy £369,120
Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan £362,950
The Iraqi Embassy £335,840
Portuguese Embassy £295,160
High Commission for Antigua And Barbuda £290,835
Embassy of the Republic of Latvia £288,590
Embassy of Finland £283,130
Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea £269,080
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia £268,770
Belize High Commission £250,130
Embassy of Luxembourg £245,875
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt £243,220
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia £205,460
Embassy of the Republic of Guinea £192,990
Embassy of the Republic of Estonia £182,100
Embassy of the State of Eritrea £161,510
High Commission for Guyana £158,330
Embassy of the Dominican Republic £151,370
High Commission for Seychelles £150,015
Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan £149,830
High Commission of the Republic of Maldives £137,010
Embassy of El Salvador £126,525
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania £116,210
Embassy of the Republic of Albania £111,520
The Embassy of Moldova £107,110
High Commission for Saint Lucia £90,180
Embassy of Bosnia And Herzegovina £83,440
High Commission for Grenada £80,030
The Gambia High Commission £76,760
Embassy of the Republic of Senegal £70,845
Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman £67,690
Embassy of Kosovo £60,940
Embassy of the State of Qatar £47,540
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran £43,300
Embassy of Guatemala £32,280
Embassy of the Republic of the Congo £31,760
High Commission for the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh £30,650
Embassy of the Republic of Gabon £29,550
Libyan Embassy £28,960
The Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic £26,530
Embassy of Tajikistan £25,060
Embassy of Georgia £19,800
Royal Thai Embassy £18,270
Embassy of Honduras £17,950
Italian Embassy £17,740
Benin Consulate £17,730
Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar £17,200
Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic £14,820
Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan £11,940
Brazilian Embassy £11,430
Embassy of the Republic of Angola £9,690
Embassy of Nicaragua £8,790
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates £8,720
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines £8,280
Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia £5,690
Malaysian High Commission £5,070
Embassy of the State of Kuwait £4,210
High Commission of the Republic of Fiji £4,060
Embassy of the Principality of Andorra £3,880
Embassy of Mongolia £3,840
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic £3,160
Barbados High Commission £3,130
Embassy of Cambodia £3,030
Embassy of Chile £2,940
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar £2,620
Canadian High Commission £2,210
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia £1,710
Embassy of Mexico £1,680
High Commission for the Republic of Singapore £1,560
Embassy of Haiti £1,560
High Commission for Saint Vincent And the Grenadines £1,460
Embassy of Iceland £1,320
Embassy of the Argentine Republic £1,200
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda £1,130
Embassy of the Azerbaijan Republic £1,000
High Commission for the Republic of Trinidad And Tobago £960
Tonga High Commission £840
Embassy of the State of Bahrain £720
Colombian Embassy £570
Brunei Darussalam High Commission £520
Embassy of Israel £370
High Commission for Saint Christopher And Nevis £360
Ambassade De La République Du Burundi £360
Australian High Commission £280
Consulate-General of Monaco £130
Embassy of the Republic of Panama £130
Embassy of Turkmenistan £130
New Zealand High Commission £0
TOTAL EMBASSY DEBT £118,543,795
Source: TfL (for 2003 to 31 March 2019)   
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