UNITED NATIONS: Diplomats in New York City still have not paid a nearly $18 million (-14 million) tab for parking tickets despite a government crackdown four years ago, and the new U.N. secretary-general appealed to them to obey local laws.
It is important for diplomatic officials who enjoy diplomatic immunities and privileges to abide by and comply with all necessary regulations in force in the countries where one is working, Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday when asked what he would say to diplomats to get rid of the backlog.
According to the New York City Department of Finance, 99 percent of the outstanding debt by the diplomatic and consular community was incurred before a 2002 agreement between the mayor s office and the U.S. State Department to help the city collect on the unpaid tickets.
The number of tickets issued to diplomats at the United Nations and consulates in New York has been dropping since the deal and as of late December had decreased by 94.4 percent, according to the New York City Department of Finance.
Only about $250,000 (-193,600) of unpaid fines have accumulated since the agreement, but the department said some of these violations are new or have not gone through the courts yet.
The secretary-general certainly encourages all member states to comply with local laws, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday. Of course, it s up to each individual member state how it goes about its dealings with the host country. He noted that Ban has been walking to work from the midtown hotel where he is staying while the secretary-general s residence is being renovated instead of driving and adding to traffic congestion.
So maybe some people can follow his example, Haq said.
Topping the Department of Finance list of countries owing the most was Egypt, racking up about $1.9 million (-1.47 million) in fines, followed by Kuwait with nearly $1.3 million (-1 million). The Egyptian Mission to the United Nations said no one was available for comment.
Ban s home country of South Korea, one of 177 countries that have yet to pay city fines, owes $17,000 (-13,170).
Delinquent countries have not gone unpunished.
As part of the 2002 agreement, the U.S. government has been withholding, in the form of aid, the amount owed by each country, plus 10 percent on fines dating back to 1997.
Part of the agreement also stipulates that the State Department can remove license plates from a vehicles if three or more tickets issued after 2002 have not been paid within 100 days.
In the four years since the deal, the city s Department of Finance said it has collected $3 million (-2.32 million) of debt owed by countries before 2002.