Fines and ‘crimes’ on the rise

London’s embassies are more in debt and their diplomats allegedly committed more serious crimes in 2013 than in 2012.

Outstanding Congestion Charge penalties owed by missions increased to £75m, up 7 per cent from last year. The US Embassy owed the most with fines of £8m, followed by Japan with £5.6m and Russia, with £5.1m. A total of 71 missions are more than £100,ooo in arrears and almost half of London’s missions refuse to pay the charge, arguing that it is a tax and contravenes international law.

Rates owed to local authorities were also up on last year by 7 per cent to £726,076, with the Chinese Embassy the biggest debtor, owing £146,564.

But part of the outstanding debt (£72,137) is owed by Iran—which is in the process of reopening its embassy in the UK—and Syria, which closed its embassy in 2012.

Crimes allegedly committed by envoys increased marginally in 2013 (from 12 to 14). The majority of offences include drink driving or driving without insurance, but also included serious transgressions such as domestic rape, sexual assault, child abduction and actual bodily harm, all of which would normally carry a jail sentence for 12 months or more.

But for the first time in a decade, outstanding parking fines decreased, albeit fractionally, to £344,176 for 2013, down from £344, 737. The Nigerian High Commission was the worst offender with unpaid parking tickets worth £74,557.