Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: ‘Ambassador Boris Becker’ aces creditors by claiming diplomatic immunity

Boris Becker has declared himself a diplomat for a small African country in a bid to stop creditors chasing him for millions in debts. The three-time Wimbledon tennis champion was declared bankrupt last summer and earlier this year launched an appeal to find his missing trophies to try to pay off £54 million of debts. The German is due to be one of the BBC’s commentators when the Wimbledon tennis championships start in a fortnight’s time. Now his lawyers have told the High Court that Becker quietly became a “sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs” attache for the Central African Republic on April 27. A defiant Becker said last night he was “immensely proud” of his new role – and attacked the “bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats” chasing him for money. According to the 1961 Vienna Convention, he cannot be subject to legal process in the courts of any country for so long as he remains a recognised diplomatic agent. He cannot be sued for the cash without the consent of the Central African Republic, while legal claims can only be served on him through diplomatic channels. Any legal action would require the agreement of Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, as well as the Central African Republic’s foreign minister. Experts said that anyone could become a foreign diplomat if invited to do so by the country. Becker’s decision to become a diplomat could mean that none of the money he is expected to receive for commentating for the BBC at Wimbledon will go to his creditors.



Newsline: Petition demands closure of the Haitian consulate

A Petition, which demands that the British government acts immediately to close the Haitian consulate in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is currently in circulation. It was launched in light of the recent influx of illegal sloops into the Turks and Caicos Islands. The strongly worded petition has been published on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. It states: “We, the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, have had enough of the illegal entry of persons violating our border on sloops, sea going vessels and boats from the neighboring country Haiti. “In recent times the significant increase has enraged our people and caused widespread fear amongst the population. “It is a threat to our overall security. We desire to see a cease in diplomatic normalcy with Haiti until the illegal entry stops. “We demand an immediate closure of the Haitian consulate in Providenciales, which we believe is a tool used by illegal migrants in facilitating their efforts at illegal entry and illegal residency.


Newsline: Wikileaks founder could leave Ecuador embassy in London ‘any day’

Julian Assange could leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has lived for six years ‘any day now’ after the US and Spain increased pressure on the country to stop shielding him. The Wikileaks founder’s situation at the embassy is ‘unusually bad’, and Mr Assange may be forced out or choose to leave on his own because of extra restrictions. Mr Assange’s position is ‘in jeopardy’, a source told CNN. Last week the President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, ordered the removal of extra security at the embassy which has cost the country at least £3.7 million. The operation – initially called ‘Operation Guest’ and later ‘Operation Hotel’ – ran up an average cost of at least $66,000 (£48,885) a month.


Newsline: Ecuador to remove Julian Assange’s extra security from London embassy

The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the withdrawal of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years. The move was announced a day after an investigation by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador revealed the country had bankrolled a multimillion-dollar spy operation to protect and support Assange, employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police. Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected him while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin. Rafael Correa, the then Ecuadorian president who approved of the operation, later defended the security measures as “routine and modest”. However, his successor, Moreno, appears to differ in his view. His government said in a statement: “The president of the republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately. “From now on, it will maintain normal security similar to that of other Ecuadorian embassies.” Moreno has previously described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe”.


Newsline: Britain blocks new Chinese embassy in London, sparking diplomatic row

UK is refusing to give China the all-clear for a new embassy in London in an extraordinary diplomatic row. Sources say the Government insists it will only be approved if the Chinese agree to a request to give up control of a road next to Britain’s embassy in Beijing. The Chinese have refused to follow normal practice and designate the road as British soil, which infuriated the Foreign Office. China plans to move its embassy from Marylebone to a building on the site of the old Royal Mint near the Tower of London. A real estate company is also looking at sites close to the new 12-storey US embassy in Vauxhall. Insiders in the Foreign Office last night said officials had spoken to the Chinese government about its plans to move to new premises several times and claimed the talks had been positive and constructive. A spokesman said that the ­Foreign Office “did not recognise” claims of a stand-off.


Newsline: Britons in France grill ambassador over post-Brexit rights

It was supposed to be a simple mission to update British nationals in Paris about their rights after Brexit. The setting was the 18th-century embassy building, the backdrop to centuries of British diplomacy. Instead Edward Llewellyn, the British ambassador, was subjected to a two-hour roasting by angry British nationals. “I went there seeking reassurance and I came away terrified about my future,” Ian Fox, a senior executive at an internationally renowned consumer brand in Paris, told the Guardian after the meeting. Lord Llewellyn, who was formerly David Cameron’s chief of staff, started out with a prepared speech about the “considerable progress” Brexit negotiators had made, explaining how he understood their “anxieties and concerns”. But he ended up being heckled and laughed at when he told them Theresa May had prioritised their rights. “Feel the temperature in the room,” one man shouted.


Newsline: Russian Embassy Implies UK Issued Fake Letter from Yulia Skripal

The Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom has released a statement saying it doubts the letter published by UK police Wednesday, which was purportedly penned by Yulia Skripal, is authentic. The embassy called on British authorities to provide concrete information on Skripal’s whereabouts, and requested London furnish proof Yulia Skripal is not being detained in the United Kingdom after being released from the hospital, where her father is still “seriously ill,” according to the letter that came via police Wednesday. The Russian Embassy in London issued a response to the letter saying it “would like to make sure that the statement truly comes from Yulia. We have great doubts about that.” “As we have already stressed, media reports that Yulia Skripal has been moved to a ‘secure location’ raise new questions. The Sun today says that she has been transferred to a medical facility at a guarded military base to continue medical treatment. There is also a video showing Yulia allegedly going out of the hospital accompanied by two guards. The Times suggests another version: Yulia has been moved to a ‘well-guarded country house,'” an embassy press officer elaborated Wednesday. In a statement released by London’s Metropolitan Police Wednesday, Yulia Skripal stated that she was “still suffering with effects of the nerve agent” and that her father, Sergei Skripal, is “still seriously ill.”