Top Gear in Argentina: Ambassador complains over Jeremy Clarkson's allegations that officials conspired against BBC film crew

The complaint largely concerns Clarkson’s suggestion that the authorities in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, were party to violent protests

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The Independent Online

Argentina has formally complained to the BBC about the “provocative behaviour” of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and his allegations that Argentinean officials conspired in violent protests against the Top Gear team during recent filming in Tierra del Fuego.

Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, went to the BBC’s headquarters at New Broadcasting House in London today and presented her complaint to Danny Cohen, the BBC’s Director of Television. Her complaint refers to claims made by Mr Clarkson that the Argentinean authorities conspired in setting a “trap” for the Top Gear team, who were forced to leave the country.

Argentina is angry over an article written by Mr Clarkson for the Sunday Times and comments made in the Sun, claiming officials were implicated in mob violence which erupted after it was noticed that he was driving car with a number plate – H982 FKL - which could have been seen as a reference to the 1982 Falklands War. The ambassador has complained to the BBC that, in a Sunday Times article of 5 October, under a headline “Make No Mistake, Lives Were At Risk”, Clarkson alleged: “Tierra del Fuego is not listed as a problem for visitors by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”, but there is no question in my mind that we walked into a trap.”

The Argentina Embassy said Ms Castro had presented the BBC with a large number of letters from “British citizens, including MPs, journalists and other personalities condemning Clarkson’s provocative behaviour”.   

The complaint largely concerns Clarkson’s suggestion that the authorities in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, were party to violent protests. “Government officials then stepped in saying we were no longer welcome in the city, that our safety could not be guaranteed and that we needed to leave Argentina immediately,” Clarkson wrote. “Plainly they had given us permission to visit simply so they could make political capital from ejecting us when we arrived.” In the same article he claimed the region was known as “a mafia state”.

In the Sun, for which Clarkson is a regular columnist, the presenter alleged: “I am still convinced the mob was state organised.”

A source said that the presenter’s assertion that the authorities had conspired in violence had “serious implications”.

Ms Castro has already claimed that Mr Clarkson “fabricated a horror story” in his version of events. In an article in The Independent earlier this month, she wrote that he had constructed a “tale designed to portray Argentines as savages”, by reporting claims that protestors threatened to barbecue the BBC team and eat them alive. She said Clarkson’s references to the sunken General Belgrano warship and the infamous “Gotcha” Sun headline from 1982 spoke “volumes about his particular sense of humour and his political and cultural frames of reference”.

The formal complaint is an indication that Argentina is unhappy with the way the BBC has handled the incident, with no formal investigation into the events. The Embassy said it awaited “a proper response” from the broadcaster. Clarkson has said that his use of the controversial number plate was merely a coincidence but it has since emerged, during a search of the vehicle by Argentinean police, that the car was also carrying plates with the registration BE11 END.

The BBC said last night it "has received a complaint and will apply its usual processes".