US embassy owes Pnds 1.5 m for London congestion charges
London : US diplomatic staff in London have run up debts of nearly Pnds 1.5 million (Dlrs 3 m) through the refusal by the American embassy to accept congestion charges for the use of the city's roads, according to new figures.
In a written parliamentary statement published Thursday, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett revealed that the US topped the list of embassies refusing the pay the charge with 15,150 outstanding fines totaling Pnds 1,484,765 by April 3, 2007.
The second highest was the Nigerian Embassy owing nearly 700,000, followed by the Sudanese Embassy with Pnds 546,000 and the Japanese Embassy with Pnds 386,000.
The US embassy is in a long-running dispute with the Greater London Authority, insisting that the road toll is a tax and is claiming diplomatic privilege not to pay the fees that were introduced in February 2003 to ease London's traffic problems.
The figures also show that the US mission owes a further 60 outstanding fines amounting to Pnds 5,210 relating to unpaid parking and minor traffic violations.
Beckett said that there was a total of 5,484 outstanding parking and other traffic violation fines incurred by diplomatic missions in the UK last year that were valued at over half a million pounds.
Top of the unpaid parking violations was Saudi Arabia, with debts of Pnds 29,620, followed by China with Pnds 25,630, Sudan with Pnds 23,550 and Egypt with Pnds 20,065.
Figures released also showed that there had been 48 serious offenses allegedly committed by diplomats who were entitled to claim diplomatic immunity since 2002, whose cases were drawn to the attention of the Foreign Offices.
The majority of the offenses related to driving under the influence of alcohol, but cases also included one murder, possession of an offensive weapon, bribery, a rape and several indecent assaults including against children.
Top of the list was staff from Kazakhstan with six alleged offenses, followed by Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and South Africa with five each.
US embassy owes Pnds 1.5 m for London congestion charges | Indian Muslims