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Foreign diplomats owe £74 million in unpaid congestion charge fines

One in three embassies in London are ignoring the London congestion charge and have racked up £74 million in unpaid fines. According to Transport for London, the American Embassy owes the most, with almost £7.9 million in fines outstanding. The Embassy of Japan follows with a total of just over £5.4 million.

The Russian Federation is third, owing more than £5 million. The High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria (£4.4 million) and the High Commission for the Federal Rebulic of Germany (£3.9 million) round off the top five.

The grand total currently stands at a whopping £74,047,592. 

According to the 1960 Vienna Conventions, foreign diplomats are exempt from paying locally-charged taxes. But Transport for London say that the congestion charge does not fall within the remit of this ruling, because it is a charge of services, rather than a tax.

The congestion charge is applied every weekday between 7am and 6pm and costs £10. Motorists are hit with a £130 fine if they fail to pay the charge. 

A spokesman for the American Embassy said: “The US Embassy in London conscientiously abides by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations.”

He added that their position on the congestion charge is based on the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, “which prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions.”

“Our position is wholly in accordance with that agreement to which the United States and the United Kingdom are both signatories, and it is a position shared by many other diplomatic missions in London.”

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