Former world tennis number one Boris Becker’s claim to have diplomatic immunity from bankruptcy has been raised in High Court proceedings.
The three-time Wimbledon champion was appointed attache to the European Union on sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs by the Central African Republic in April.
His lawyers said on Thursday that the position was covered by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and meant he could not be subjected to any legal proceedings without the consent of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his counterpart in Bangui.
The 50-year-old German was declared bankrupt in June 2017 by Registrar Christine Derrett, who recalled watching him play on Centre Court.
The bankruptcy was due to be discharged on Tuesday, but that has now been put on hold.
Mr Becker’s lawyers told the court he agreed to the suspension of the discharge so the issue of his diplomatic immunity could be investigated further.
Judge Sebastian Prentis told the High Court on Monday that lawyers acting for the bankruptcy trustees claim Mr Becker has not co-operated fully with them by not providing “full and accurate information” about his assets.
The judge said the allegation relates to assets including two German properties, a property in London, an interest in three Mercedes dealerships and various tennis trophies and memorabilia.
Mr Becker’s barrister Ben Emmerson QC said his client may wish to apply for an injunction to block a sale of trophies, due to be held at the end of July, as it would be “irreversible”.
Judge Prentis said there would be a directions hearing some time after October 5, to discuss how the case would proceed.
The judge told the court he received information from the Central African Republic’s embassy in Brussels that Mr Becker holds a diplomatic passport which is valid until 2023.
I have now asserted diplomatic immunity as I am in fact bound to do, in order to bring this farce to an end, so that I can start to rebuild my life
The bankruptcy application was made by bankers Arbuthnot Latham in connection with a judgment debt dating back to 2015.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Becker said: “The decision to commence bankruptcy proceedings against me was both unjustified and unjust.
“A bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats pushed me into a completely unnecessary declaration of bankruptcy, which has inflicted a whole heap of damage on me, both commercially and professionally, and on those close to me.
“I have now asserted diplomatic immunity as I am in fact bound to do, in order to bring this farce to an end, so that I can start to rebuild my life.”
In a statement from the Central African Republic’s embassy in Brussels, a spokesman said: “Mr Becker is in mission for our country and our embassy in the field of sport, culture and humanitarian affairs.
“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.”