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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Boris Becker claims diplomatic immunity in bankruptcy case

Retired tennis star is a volunteer sports attache for the Central African republic

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker addresses a news conference at the German Tennis Federation in Frankfurt on August 23, 2017. Daniel Roland / AFP
Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker addresses a news conference at the German Tennis Federation in Frankfurt on August 23, 2017. Daniel Roland / AFP

Retired German tennis star Boris Becker is claiming his unpaid role as a sports attache for the Central African Republic gives him diplomatic immunity from bankruptcy proceedings.

The three-time Wimbledon champion took up the role in April. His lawyers claimed in Britain's High Court late on Thursday that this protects him from ongoing bankruptcy actions.

He says his role as attache to the European Union on sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs means he is covered by a 1961 convention on diplomatic relations.

Becker, 50, who lives in Britain, was declared bankrupt in June 2017. He is selling some of his memorabilia including Wimbledon trophies in an effort to reduce his debts.

His legal team says he can only be subjected to legal proceedings with the consent of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his counterpart in the Central African Republic.

The former world number one criticised the bankruptcy proceedings as "unjustified and unjust", saying he had been pushed into an unnecessary declaration of bankruptcy by "a bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats" trying to damage him.

"I have now asserted diplomatic immunity as I am in fact bound to do, in order to bring this farce to an end, so that I can start to rebuild my life," Becker said.

Read more: Boris Becker appeals for help to find lost grand slam trophies

Becker was named to the volunteer sport attache role on April 26, more than nine months after his bankruptcy declaration.

At the time, Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera said he was "extremely pleased that a world star like Boris Becker, with his extensive international relations, has agreed to support our country."

Becker said he hoped to help improve living conditions in the Central African Republic. A press release indicated he would have an office at the country's embassy in Brussels.

Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera with Boris Becker in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, April 27, 2018, after the retired tennis star was appointed as his country's Attache for Sports and Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs in the European Union with immediate effect. Irle Moser Rechtsanwalte PartG via AP Images
Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera with Boris Becker in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, April 27, 2018, after the retired tennis star was appointed as his country's Attache for Sports and Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs in the European Union with immediate effect. Irle Moser Rechtsanwalte PartG via AP Images

Legal expert Mark Stephens said that in his view Becker's immunity claim was valid, but he urged the Central African Republic to take steps to prevent apparent abuse of diplomatic immunity.

"The Central African Republic should be asked to revoke his immunity for this particular case because it relates to his personal activities and predates his appointment and in no way relates to his diplomatic function," Mr Stephens said. "That would let the court case proceed."