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16.09.2004 General News

Ghana Mission in UK owe £9,650 in Parking Fees

By BBC
Libya 'owes most parking fines' Ghana owes £9,650 in outstanding parking and "minor traffic violation" bills from her diplomatic missions, according to a list issued by the Foreign Office.
Libyan diplomats are the worst at paying UK parking fines. They owed £34,480 in 2003. AMOUNT OWED IN TRAFFIC FINES Libya: £34,480 Saudi Arabia: £24,200 Nigeria: £15,850 Georgia: £16, 460 China: £14,080 Kazakhstan: £13,670 Turkey: £10,410 Egypt: £10, 930 Ghana: £9,650 Greece: £8,230 It was revealed during annual attempts to persuade diplomats to settle unpaid fines and rates, which this year totalled more than £1.3m.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said most nations "met their obligations". The Libyan Embassy refused to comment.
The annual statement is used to put pressure on diplomatic missions, including embassies, to settle their bills.
In May the Foreign Office sent a letter asking those with traffic fines to pay up or appeal, prompting payments of £49,280.
But £350,170 remains outstanding, as do 1,847 fines for London's £5-a-day congestion charge.
London is not the only city to experience the problem. In New York diplomats accumulated nearly $20m in unpaid parking fees, before mayor Michael Bloomberg drew up tough new rules to stop them.
But most of the money owed in the UK - £980,000 - was from diplomatic missions that had not paid the National Non-Domestic Rate (NNDR), which is a business property tax.
Mozambique topped the list of ten worst offenders with an outstanding NNDR bill of £33, 718 as of 31 July 2004.
In the statement, Mr Straw said another 12 countries who had owed more than £10,000 NNDR payments were in the process of settling their bills.
A Foreign Office spokesman said diplomatic missions and other international organisations were obliged, under the Vienna Convention, to respect the laws and regulations of their host country.
"Immunity doesn't absolve them of their duty to obey the law," he said.
"We follow it up regularly, we remind them of their obligations and we encourage them along."
But he added only 64 of more than 200 diplomatic missions in the UK were named in the list, adding that most kept up to date with their fines.


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