In a quiet suburban street in southern Canberra, there's a store that won't accept your money. Unless of course, you have special privileges.
Downtown Duty Free in Curtin shares a building with a recruitment agency and is a short walk from several high commissions and embassies. It's a five-minute drive from a hub of foreign diplomats in Yarralumla and Deakin.
When contacted by The Canberra Times, staff said the only way to purchase items was by showing a diplomatic passport.
When regular Australians shop at duty-free stores at airports, we're limited to 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverages or 50 cigarettes. Those products need to valued at $900 or less or you'll have to put something back.
But diplomatic missions in Australia have special entitlements.
They can access up to 260 litres of spirits or liquor, 1000 litres of beer or 20,000 cigarettes every six months at a discount rate. A privileged diplomat can access half this amount for personal use.
According to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade guidelines, foreign diplomats can only import or purchase goods necessary for official requirements or reasonable personal use.
Last month, Fairfax Media revealed staff at the Azerbaijan embassy used their diplomatic status to get Australian government approval to import 2000 litres of beer, 1100 litres of wine, 520 litres of spirits and 40,000 cigarettes from two duty-free suppliers.
The embassy, which represents an overwhelming Islamic country, is staffed by only five diplomats. The order, despite its size, falls within generous rules for the diplomatic community.
Embassy staff have denied using their full entitlements and do not believe goods are being resold by diplomats. The large order caught the attention of DFAT and customs officials, but no further action was taken.
Earlier this week, the Australian Border Force confirmed it launched a separate investigation into foreign diplomats allegedly involved in the black market trade of alcohol and tobacco.
Should foreign diplomats choose to sell tobacco or alcohol to the public, they are required to pay taxes to the Australian government.
Fairfax Media is not alleging Downtown Duty Free in Canberra or the Azerbaijan embassy have broken any laws. Store management declined an interview when contacted on Friday.
In recent months, Saudi diplomats have faced public scrutiny for using diplomatic immunity to refuse paying fines after being caught speeding, drinking and failing to stop for police.
One diplomat was even caught driving at 135km/h over Commonwealth Bridge at 2am on a Tuesday. He led police on a short pursuit, failed to produce a valid licence and said he was looking for antibiotics.
Foreign diplomats owe more than $500,000 in speeding fines in Canberra, causing frustration for DFAT officials calling on embassies to pay up.
The Vienna Convention, the treaty that bestows diplomatic immunity, protects diplomats from any form of arrest or detention and from civil or criminal prosecution, though their home country may choose to waive this right.
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