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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

New Litigation Defense – Buy a Government Position and Claim Diplomatic Immunity

Who knew – a new form of litigation defense – buy a position as a government official and then claim immunity from suit. The tactic apparently is growing, according to a June 15, 2018 article in the Financial Times. According to the article:

“Boris Becker has amassed many titles in his 50 years. The German former world number one tennis champion, three-times Wimbledon winner, television commentator and man-about-town has now added a new one: attaché to the Central African Republic.

This title, he claimed on Thursday, shields him from ongoing bankruptcy proceedings filed in London’s High Court over money he allegedly owes Arbuthnot Latham, a private bank, and other creditors.

He is not the only one using this argument. This is “absolutely being used as a tactic,” according to Mark Stephens, a lawyer at Howard Kennedy. “If you commit a crime or are party to serious civil litigation, it’s a good idea to claim you’re a diplomat. You can go down and buy investor passports or diplomatic posts from all kinds of islands and investor locations. So you have billionaires and influential people going to these locations and buying themselves diplomatic immunity.”

The Vienna Convention of 1961 — drafted at the height of the Cold War when there were concerns that states could interfere in the legitimate work of diplomats — enshrined long-held protocol that diplomats could not be party to legal proceedings in any country for as long as they held the status.

Since then, the number of diplomats has exploded. At the Court of St James, the royal court that officially receives foreign dignitaries, there are currently more than 22,000 individuals claiming diplomatic status. As a result, English courts have increasingly had to consider the issue of immunity.”

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