African country denies they granted former tennis champ diplomatic immunity

The foreign minister of the Central African Republic has denied claims made by former tennis star Boris Becker that he has diplomatic immunity because of his role as a sports attaché for the country.

The German six-time major winner, 50, who took up the role in April, claimed in Britain’s High Court last week that the role protects him from ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.

At the time of his appointment, Becker tweeted a photograph of himself shaking hands with Faustin Archange Touadera, the CAR president.

However Charles Armel Doubane, the CAR foreign minister, said on Monday he had never granted Becker official diplomatic status.

“Boris Becker is not an official diplomat of Central African Republic,” Doubane said. “The President never asked me to take the appropriate steps in the case of Boris Becker.”

AP

AP (The German six-time major winner, 50, who took up the role in April, claimed in Britain’s High Court last week that the role protects him from ongoing bankruptcy proceedings)

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Furthermore, Cherubin Moroubama, the CAR’s foreign minister chief of staff, said that the documents provided are “stolen” and “fake”.

“The diplomatic passport that he has is a fake,” he said, adding that the document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014.”

Hours after the foreign minister’s comments however, the CAR embassy in Brussels contradicted him and said Becker was in fact one of its diplomats.

“Mr Becker is in mission for our country and our embassy in the field of sport, culture and humanitarian affairs,” a spokesman said.

“He promotes peaceful co-existence, using his contacts in sports and culture and international connections.

“The embassy sees no reason to comment on Mr Becker’s private insolvency. It does not affect the sincere efforts of Mr Boris Becker for our country.”

Further complicating the case, documents obtained by Deutsche Welle, a German newspaper, appear to show Becker’s passport does in fact have Doubane’s signature.

But Doubane doubled down on his denial that Becker was a diplomat.

"Does Mr Becker have the qualities required of a CAR diplomat? And secondly, does he have the papers to prove he is a CAR diplomat. If he does, he should show those papers," he told Deutsche Welle. "And if Mr Becker is caught up in legal proceedings, do we have the right to protect him because of his supposed dipomatic immunity? The answers to the questions are: no, no and no!"

On Friday, Becker’s lawyers argued that his role for the CAR granted him immunity under the 1961 Vienna Diplomatic Convention on Diplomatic Relations from bankruptcy proceedings.

The bankruptcy was due to be discharged today, but the new and conflicting information has led to a suspension.

The Central African Republic is one of the world's most impoverished countries, destabilized by deadly sectarian violence since 2013 with thousands of people of killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.