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Fame and celebrity

Sorry Boris Becker, your diplomatic passport is a fake, says Central African Republic

The former tennis star says his diplomatic status grants him immunity from UK bankruptcy proceedings - but the Central African Republic says his passport’s number corresponds with a stolen document

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 8:26pm

Boris Becker thought he had an ace up his sleeve.

Last week, the German former tennis star’s lawyers touted diplomatic immunity as he attempted to fend off bankruptcy proceedings in Britain.

Evidence of the unlikely claim came in the form of a diplomatic passport, supposedly issued by the Central African Republic in March.

Not so fast.

“The diplomatic passport that he has is a fake,” said Cherubin Mologbama, the chief of staff for the Central African Republic foreign ministry.

The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014,” he said on Tuesday.

In addition, the passport - which bears the date of March 19, 2018 - does not carry the signature or the stamp of the foreign minister, Charles Armel Doubane, Mologbama said.

Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status.

“It’s the truth. It is a fact that I am, today, a diplomat” of the CAR, he said in a filmed interview with Top Magazin Frankfurt.

On Friday, lawyers for Germany’s three-time Wimbledon champion lodged a claim in the High Court in Britain saying that he had been appointed a sports attaché for the CAR to the European Union (EU) in April.

This, they argued, granted him immunity under the 1961 Vienna Diplomatic Convention on Diplomatic Relations from bankruptcy proceedings over failure to pay a long-standing debt.

“Becker’s job profile does not exist” in the CAR’s records, Mologbama said.

Furthermore, the passport says that Becker’s supposed diplomatic function is “financial charge de mission,” a role that “has nothing to do with sporting questions,” he noted.

In April, the 50-year-old former tennis star had tweeted a picture of himself shaking hands with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera at a meeting in Brussels.

Becker shook up the tennis world at Wimbledon in 1985 when, as an unseeded player, he became the then youngest-ever male Grand Slam champion at the age of 17, defending the trophy the following year.

The German went on to enjoy a glittering career and amassed more than US$25 million in prize money.

The CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at the very bottom of the 188 nations in the UN Development Programme’s 2016 Human Development Index.

Landlocked, rich in gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the country of 4.6 million people has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Its presidents have traditionally been surrounded by “sleazy courtesans” and “dodgy counsellors who talk loud,” French writer Jean-Pierre Tuquoi wrote in a book published last year.

Poor governance and a tradition of graft make for a toxic mixture, says Thierry Vircoulon, a CAR specialist at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

“Given the authorities’ extreme weakness and corruptibility, crooks and con men of every stripe always find a way to gain access to the president and make money,” he says. “This country is perfect for business pirates.”