Kazakh diplomats not willing to repay £1.8 million 'debt' of London congestion charges

29 july 2014, 14:04

Kazakhstani diplomats in Britain are not planning to repay £1.8 million of congestion charges for driving in London city center, Tengrinews reports.

According to Daily Mail the total debt of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations to Great Britain has exceeded £75 million of London congestion charges. The multimillion sum has accumulated during more than a decade since 2003, when the fee was introduced. A car is charged £10 every day from Monday to Friday if it enters the charging zone between 7am to 6pm. Besides, the penalty for not paying the fee ranges from £60 and £180.

The list of “dodgers” is topped by the US Embassy, whose officers have incurred more than 70,000 fines and a total bill worth more than £8 million. The Embassy of Japan is second with more than 48,000 fines totaling more than £5.5 million. The Russian Federation Embassy follows with around 44,000 fines and a bill of £5.1 million.

The Embassy of Kazakhstan is in the 10th place. It has more than 15,000 fines and a bill worth around £1.8 million. Even so, the press secretary of Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry Nurzhan Aitmakhanov declared that the Kazakh diplomats were not liable to pay the fee.

“All the embassies, including the Embassy of Kazakhstan, view this fee (for driving and parking in the city center) as a tax. And in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, diplomats are exempt from taxes in any country of residence. For example, an American diplomat does not pay taxes in Kazakhstan,” Aitmakhanov said.

He added that almost all diplomatic missions were located in the center of London and all the embassies shared the opinion, which is why so large sums had been accumulated over the years. The press secretary stressed that Kazakhstan was firm in its position not to pay the bill.

Meanwhile, the situation is quite different with respect to traffic violations. Every diplomat is obliged to pay for the violations he of she commits out of his or her own pocket.

A list of foreign embassies with outstanding parking fines is topped by Nigerians, who owe more than £74,000. Kazakhstani diplomats are in the 15th place out of 20 missions in the list. They owe a little over £5,300.

Back in 2011 the Kazakhstan Embassy “earned” about 2,000 parking fines totaling £189,600 thousand. The Foreign Affairs Ministry blamed the inconvenient location of the embassy building for the huge number of violations.

The inconvenience, nevertheless, did not stop Kazakhstan from dismissing the third secretary of its diplomatic mission in London Rakhat Turlykhanov for having a record number of fines and violations of traffic and parking rules.

In 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan said that it no longer recognized old fines for traffic violations of Kazakhstani diplomats abroad. Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrissov promised that the discipline of all the mission's diplomats had been signifinactly improved since 2007 and they all had been paying for their own parking and violations ever since.

“The problem of parking and traffic fines has been resolved, it no longer exists. This is an old debt that we do not recognize, even though it is constantly presented to us by these countries. However, we flatly refuse to pay it because we do not recognize the debt. There was a period of misunderstanding but after the situation was clarified there have been no more fines," the Minister said.

Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Dinara Urazova

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