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Gulf diplomats use immunity to dodge UK drink driving charges
July 19, 2014, 11:59 am
Mark Simmonds, a UK Foreign Office minister

A handful of Arab diplomats last year avoided prosecution in the UK for offences such as drink driving and public order offence on the grounds of diplomatic immunity, according to official UK government figures.

The statistics also showed that a number of Arab embassies also racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid parking fines.

Mark Simmonds, a Foreign Office minister, said Scotland Yard's diplomatic protection group had identified what it described as 14 'serious and significant' offences committed by people officials in the UK who are protected by diplomatic immunity.

The Foreign Office’s annual report identifies a serious offences as one which would carry a sentence of more than 12 months if a conviction was secured.

The report stated that in 2013 two Saudi diplomats and a Kuwait diplomat avoided charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, while a Kuwaiti official also avoided being charged for a public order offence.

Around 21,500 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the UK and are protected under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

In a statement, Simmonds said: “The majority of diplomats abide by UK law. The number of alleged serious crimes committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low.

“'The FCO 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.'

The Foreign Office also released figures on unpaid fines accrued by embassies based in the UK.

In 2013, it reported that 5662 unpaid parking fines were incurred by Diplomatic Missions and International Organisations, totalling £541,599 ($926,117).

The highest amount outstanding was incurred by the High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with £74,557 still owed to authorities. Second on the list was the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, which owed £30,690.

Other Arab embassies without outstanding fines included the Embassy of the State of Qatar (£10,115), the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq (£9,150), the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman (£7,095), the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt (£3,327), the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco (£2,745) and the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (£2,620).

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