The UK is owned more than £95m ($125m) in unpaid congestion charges and parking fines incurred by foreign diplomats given diplomatic immunity while visiting the country since February 2003. According to the Foreign Office, there were 4,858 parking fines handed to diplomatic missions and international organisations in London alone during 2015, totalling fines of £477,499.
Figures reveal the country with the most number of parking fines in 2015 was South Sudan, whose diplomats last year amassed £53, 708, followed by Nigeria with £41,531 and Saudi Arabia with £20,692.
The problem doesn't just exist in the UK. In 2011, New York was estimated to be owed more than $17m in unpaid parking tickets racked up by foreign diplomats, with more than $16m of parking tickets acquired in 2002.
Elsewhere, visitors to the UK representing the Embassy of the United States of America have ignored London's Congestion Charge while undergoing diplomatic missions more than 89,000 times since it was introduced in 2003, resulting in fines totalling £10,626,970. Japan comes in second with most number of congestion fines at £7,072,020 followed by Nigeria with £6,045,440.
The and the parking fines and the congestion charge, an £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle within central London between 7am and 6pm from Mondays to Fridays, were able to be disregarded because of diplomatic immunity, a law which gives a country's representative the right to escape lawsuits or prosecution in another country.
Paul Cowperthwaite, Transport for London's (TfL) general manager for Congestion Charging, told IBTimes UK: "We are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it. We continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices."
Diplomatic immunity has also been described as essentially a 'get out of jail free card', shielding visitors from prosecution for anything from drink driving offences to murder. The law is mainly used to ensure diplomats aren't prosecuted for committing offences not recognised in their home country and be protected from prosecution for political reason.
The Foreign Office also revealed there were 11 "serious and significant offences" allegedly committed by people granted diplomatic immunity in the UK in 2015, including human trafficking and child sex, who were able to escape prosecution.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: "Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, those entitled to immunity are expected to obey the law. The Foreign Office does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.
"We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When instances of alleged criminal conduct are brought to our attention by the police, we ask the relevant foreign government to waive diplomatic immunity where appropriate. For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we seek the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat."
Most unpaid congestion charges
|COUNTRY||Number of fines||Total outstanding (£)|
|Embassy of the United States of America||89,308||10,626,970|
|Embassy of Japan||59,533||7,072,020|
|High Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria||50,952||6,045,440|
|Embassy of the Russian Federation||46,894||5,485,360|
|Office of the High Commissioner for India||36,984||4,489,825|
|Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany||35,706||4,147,600|
|Embassy of the Republic of Poland||29,304||3,533,290|
|Office of the High Commissioner for Ghana||26,482||3,186,530|
|Embassy of the Peopleâs Republic of China||24,002||3,016,760|
|Embassy of the Republic of Sudan||24,466||2,830,520|
Most parking fines
|Diplomatic Mission/International Organisation||Amount of Outstanding Fines (£)|
|Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan||53,708|
|High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria||41,531|
|Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia||20,692|
|High Commission for the Republic of Zambia||18,212|
|Embassy of the Republic of Liberia||13,795|
|Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan||13,429|
|Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan||11,885|
|Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan||10,950|
|Embassy of the United Arab Emirates||8,425|
|Embassy of the Ivory Coast||7,421|