Embassy debt up, diplomatic ‘crimes’ down

Debt owed by diplomatic missions in unpaid business rates has soared by 20 per cent over the past year, to almost £675,000, Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed in a statement to Parliament.

A total of £45,219 of this outstanding debt is owed by Iran and Syria which are not currently represented in the UK. Therefore the FCO is unable to pursue these debts.

Topping the league of indebted missions for a second year in a row is Cote d’Ivoire, which owes nearly £98,000, closely followed by China (£97,377) and Bangladesh (£91,496).

Perhaps due to the EU debt crisis, cash-strapped Italy has entered the ranks of missions which owe more than £10,000.

Diplomatic missions are obliged to pay only 6 per cent of the total national non-domestic (NNDR) value of their offices, which includes payment for specific services such as street cleaning and street lighting.

The UK government foots the entire bill and then claws back 6 per cent from missions, meaning that British tax payers are subsidising pariah states such as Iran and Syria.

Unpaid parking tickets have also increased marginally from £331,323 in 2011 to £344, 737. The mission accumulating the most parking tickets was Nigeria, which owes £84,645, followed by Saudi Arabia (£24,005) and France (£14,735). Forty diplomatic missions now have outstanding parking tickets in excess of £100o.

But while debt is up, crimes allegedly committed by envoys in 2012 is down to 12 (one fewer than 2011). Alleged offences include driving without insurance, driving drunk, abuse of a domestic worker and actual bodily harm, all of which would normally carry a custodial sentence for 12 months or more.

In 2006 the FCO began ‘naming and shaming’ missions whose staff are accused of serious offences, in a bid to clamp down on transgressions. Since then alleged offences committed by diplomats have almost halved from 20 in 2007 to 12 last year.