Immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention may be a vital part of international relations, but it does little good for the moral fibre of the individuals involved. As of April in Canberra, Australia, diplomats representing various foreign powers owed the city more than A$500,000 (£290,000) – mostly in unpaid parking fines. Tickets for running red lights and speeding were also common. Saudi Arabian diplomats alone owed nearly A$140,000. In New York, meanwhile, the total bill for parking tickets issued to UN diplomats was more than $16m (£12.3m) as of March. In London, diplomats failed to pay 4,858 parking fines in last year alone, creating £477,499 of debt (£161,328 of which was later waived or paid). The real story here, however, is the congestion charge. Nearly £100m of congestion charges fees remain unpaid since it was introduced in 2003 – more than 10% of it from the US embassy. In part, things have reached this stage because of an argument over whether the charge is the price of a service or merely a tax for going in and out of London. Diplomats tend to argue the second, because it just so happens that they are also immune from tax as well as from prosecution. The US reached this view in 2005.
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