Boris Becker claims CAR diplomatic immunity in bankruptcy case
Former tennis champion Boris Becker is claiming diplomatic immunity against an attempt to sue him.
The three-time Wimbledon winner claims his appointment as a diplomat by the Central African Republic (CAR) affords him protection from any legal claims.
Mr Becker was declared bankrupt in 2017 over money owed to private bank Arbuthnot Latham. He is now being pursued for “further assets”.
The conflict-ridden CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries.
It made Mr Becker a sport and culture attache to the EU in April 2018.
Mr Becker’s defence has been lodged in the High Court.
His lawyers maintain he cannot be made subject to any legal process unless CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera specifically lifts his immunity at the request of the British government.
“This means he cannot be subject to legal process in the courts of any country for so long as he remains a recognised diplomatic agent,” his legal team said.
The former tennis champion said the proceedings were “unjustified and unjust” and being declared bankrupt “inflicted a whole heap of damage on me”.
He said he was asserting diplomatic immunity to “bring this farce to an end” and stop “the gravy train for the suits”.
“I am immensely proud of my appointment [by] the Central African Republic… sport is incredibly important in Africa and is fast becoming a universal language,” Mr Becker stated.
His photo appears on the website of the CAR’s embassy in Brussels, and a caption describes him as its attache for sport, culture and humanitarian affairs.
But a diplomatic correspondent, Paul Adams said in the CAR that there appeared to be confusion over Mr Becker’s role and a government official said he had not been aware the post existed.
An Indian and a Kazakh businessman, as well as a former adviser to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, have all at various times attempted to avoid legal action in Europe by citing diplomatic immunity from the CAR.
Mr Becker was declared bankrupt after Arbuthnot Latham claimed he owed them a large sum for more than two years.
At the time, he said: “This order relates to one disputed loan which I was due to repay in full in one month’s time.”
But the registrar said Mr Becker gave the impression of “a man with his head in the sand.”
He has appointed Ben Emmerson QC, who has previously represented Julian Assange and Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander Litvinenko.
CAR presidential spokesman Albert Yaloke Mokpeme said the proceedings brought against Mr Becker had nothing to do with the CAR.
The trustees handling Mr Becker’s bankruptcy confirmed they had applied on 31 May for the status to continue because they did not consider he had “adequately complied” with his obligations.
They said they had been working to ascertain the size of the estate and identify assets since 2017.
In a statement, estate trustee Mark Ford from accountants Smith & Williamson said they did not believe Mr Becker’s appointment as a CAR attache had a “material impact” on his bankruptcy.