Are lawyers helping clients make spurious diplomatic immunity claims?

News that Boris Becker has claimed diplomatic immunity in bankruptcy proceedings – https://www.ft.com/content/551ce878-70b4-11e8-92d3-6c13e5c92914 – prompts an interesting observation from well known lawyer Mark Stephens:

This is “absolutely being used as a tactic…. If you commit a crime or are party to serious civil litigation, it’s a good idea to claim you’re a diplomat. You can go down and buy investor passports or diplomatic posts from all kinds of islands and investor locations. So you have billionaires and influential people going to these locations and buying themselves diplomatic immunity.”

The comment suggests to me that lawyers may be advising their clients to buy and assert diplomatic status where they have no plausible claim to it.

To be clear Mark does not explicitly implicate lawyers, but they would be one obvious source of such advice. He goes on to say the tactic is, “morally repugnant behaviour that, while legally permissible, runs against the very notions of fair play that we expect of diplomats.” To my mind, if it does involve lawyers, they risk breaches of professional conduct rules (one cannot assert a claim on behalf of a client to which is unfounded). Legal permissability must also be doubted (perverting the course of justice again anyone?). The moral repugnance comment also applies to the ‘diplomats’ professional enablers, with the potential to implicate professional integrity.

Time for those involved to take a cold, post match shower.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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