Russian diplomats have racked up almost $100,000 in unpaid traffic infringements, while Saudi embassy staff remained the worst offenders with 510 fines in the past five years.
The Foreign Affairs Department has made inroads into diplomatic fine debts, successfully negotiating more than $350,000 in paid-off debts since 2017. But staff at some embassies continued to flout the ACT's road rules and parking restrictions and refused to pay their fines.
Figures compiled by the ACT government late last year showed the Russians owed the most money by a considerable margin, with $95,479.77 outstanding. This figure consisted primarily of speeding and parking fines but included other infringements issued by Access Canberra such as running red lights.
The Romanian embassy came in second with $29,566 owing, followed by the Chileans with $12,187 and the Tongan High Commission with $11,530 outstanding.
In the past five years, 106 diplomatic missions have been issued with infringements but only 39 have money outstanding, highlighting the majority of missions pay their fines.
A spokesman for the Russian embassy said since 2018 the embassy had a strict policy in place to pay new traffic infringements "without delay".
He said the embassy was in discussions with DFAT regarding the amount accrued in fines prior to 2018 and hoped an acceptable solution could be found.
"This embassy is very serious about respecting laws and regulations of the receiving state as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," he said.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats have immunity from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction in the country to which they are posted, with some exceptions.
It also allowed diplomats freedom of movement which was why diplomats entering Australia during the pandemic had not been forced to undergo hotel quarantine like Australian citizens.
The immunity also meant traffic infringements could not be enforced against diplomats in Australian courts without a waiver from their home nation.
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department said it expected diplomats to obey Australia's laws and to pay fines promptly.
"DFAT regularly reminds diplomats of their obligation to obey Australia's road rules," the spokesman said.
"Good progress has been achieved in ensuring missions are complying with ACT laws and regulations.
"Following a concerted and sustained campaign by DFAT, we have reduced outstanding fines owed by foreign diplomats in the ACT from $583,891.79 in 2017 to $209,277 as of October 2020."
ACT government data showed 810 infringements were issued to diplomatic-registered vehicles last financial year. Of those, 228 were issued to "unknown embassies" where the vehicle was registered to an individual diplomat rather than a mission.
The embassy of Saudi Arabia received the most infringements by a considerable margin, recording 55 in 2019-20.
Saudi diplomats have a dreadful history on Canberra's roads, with a 2016 report describing egregious speeding violations and police chases resulting in little consequence.
Over the past five years the Saudis recorded 510 infringements, considerably higher than the Chinese diplomatic staff who followed with 144.
To its credit, the Saudi Arabian embassy appeared to pay its fines as it had only $1457 outstanding.
The Indonesian embassy recorded 119 fines, Japan received 106 and Kuwait with 105 rounded out the top five of worst offenders in the past five years.
However, the Japanese and Kuwaiti missions had no money outstanding and Indonesia and China had only small unpaid debts.
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