US embassy staff owe UK £7.2m in unpaid fines

The US embassy in London, whose staff have racked up over �7 million in unpaid fines. Picture: AP
The US embassy in London, whose staff have racked up over �7 million in unpaid fines. Picture: AP
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THE US embassy has run up more than 63,000 congestion- charge fines – and owes British authorities more than £7.2 million in unpaid fines, William Hague said yesterday.

The Foreign Secretary released the figures as part of the annual statements of outstanding fines, penalties and taxes not paid by foreign embassies.

Total unpaid congestion charges in London now stand at £67.5m since it was introduced in 2003. The United States figure far outstrips the nearest rival – the Russian Federation, which owes £4.89m from 42,310 fines. In a close third is Japan, which owes £4.85m from 42,206 fines.

Diplomats also fail to pay parking fines in London, Mr Hague said, with a net £344,747 unpaid in 2012 alone. The worst offenders for parking fines are Nigerian diplomats, who owe more than £84,000, followed by Saudi Arabia, which owes £24,005.

The United States’ embassy staff were comparatively well-behaved – running up unpaid parking fines worth only £1,555 and coming near the bottom of the Foreign Office league table.

Several diplomatic missions also owe business rates to local authorities but the list is far shorter than for road charges.

Of the 14 states which owe money, the Ivory Coast is the worst offender, with £97,987 outstanding. China owes £94,377.

Total outstanding business rates for all nations stood at £674,100 in June this year, Mr Hague said. He added that diplomatic missions are obliged to pay only 6 per cent of the normal rates for their offices, to cover specific payments for street cleaning and lighting.

In his written statements to MPs, Mr Hague said the government urges foreign states to pay their fines.

On parking fines, he said: “In 2012, there were 6,154 parking fines incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations, These totalled £584,772.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has held meetings with a number of missions about outstanding parking-fine debt.

“In addition, in April this year we wrote to the diplomatic missions concerned, giving them the opportunity to either pay the outstanding fines or to appeal against them if they considered the fines had been issued incorrectly.”

On business rates, he added: “Representations to missions in 2013 led to the settlement of outstanding debts by Kuwait, Namibia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Zambia and Zimbabwe – amongst others.

“As at June 14 2013, the total amount of outstanding NNDR (National Non Domestic Rates) payments is £674,110, an increase of almost 20 per cent from the 2011 figure.”

Mr Hague said more than £45,000 of this outstanding debt was owed by Iran and Syria, which are not currently represented in the UK and “we are therefore unable to pursue these debts”.

“Six missions are responsible for almost two-thirds of the remainder. We shall continue to urge those with NNDR debt to pay their dues.”