Britain, CAR cast doubts on Boris Becker claim of diplomatic immunity
Doubts mounted Friday about the veracity of a claim by former tennis star Boris Becker that he has diplomatic immunity – a bid to end bankruptcy proceedings against him in Britain – because of his recent appointment as a sport ambassador for the Central African Republic (CAR).
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which registers all foreign diplomats, said it had no record of any such appointment for the German tennis star.
“The FCO has no record of Mr Becker being appointed to any diplomatic mission in the UK, but were he to be so, it would for a court to determine any immunity,” a government spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The Central African Republic also cast doubt on the diplomatic relationship.
The CAR’s sport minister, Sylvain Ngarso, told dpa he was surprised by Becker’s claim, as he had no information whatsoever on Becker’s alleged role as a sports and culture ambassador. He said he had spoken to the Foreign Ministry and that they had no information either.
However, a website that seems to show the CAR’s embassy delegation to Belgium, includes a photograph of Becker.
But, in another blow to Becker’s claim, the trustees handling Becker’s case said any diplomatic role would have no impact on his bankruptcy and accused him of failing to cooperate.
In documents lodged at the High Court in London on Thursday, Becker said he was asserting diplomatic immunity “in order to bring this [bankruptcy] farce to an end, so that I can start to rebuild my life.”
Insolvency practitioners Smith and Williamson, the trustees handling Becker’s bankruptcy, confirmed that they have applied to the court on May 31 to extend the bankruptcy term, which ends on Thursday, because they “do not consider that Mr Becker has adequately complied with his legal obligations as a bankrupt.”
“We welcome Mr Becker’s appointment to promote sport in the Central African Republic,” said Mark Ford, a lead trustee in the case.
“However, we believe that it has no material impact on Mr Becker’s bankruptcy,” Ford said in a statement.
“Despite allowing Mr Becker a number of opportunities to cooperate satisfactorily and provide information to the trustees, during the course of our appointment, he has failed to do this,” he said.
Katherine Reece Thomas, an expert on the law of state immunity at the City Law School, part of the University of London, told dpa that Becker is “probably not immune as [he is] not accredited here.”
Even if diplomatic immunity were to be granted to Becker, it would not apply retrospectively to the bankruptcy proceedings, Reece Thomas said.
Lawyers for the 50-year-old German cited his April appointment as a sports attache to the European Union for CAR, saying it granted him immunity from any legal proceedings in any country according to the 1961 Vienna Convention.
The three-time Wimbledon champion was declared bankrupt in June 2017 because of a debt allegedly owed to private bankers Arbuthnot Latham since 2015. He is still being pursued for “further assets.”
The former tennis champion is being represented by Ben Emmerson, a former UN special rapporteur whose previous high profile clients include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir.