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.
His legal team said: “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.”
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”.
He added: “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.”
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.
Central African Republic:
- Rich in diamonds, gold, oil and uranium, but has one of the world’s poorest populations
- Unstable since independence from France in 1960; renewed crisis since rebels seized power in 2013
- 27% of the population, 1.2m people, have fled their homes; 2m need food aid, 45% of the population
- Government only controls the capital; 14,000 UN peacekeepers in the country
- Life expectancy is 48 (men) and 51 (women)
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 told BBC Afrique the proceedings brought against Mr Becker had nothing to do with the CAR. BBC News