They may live in opulent embassies and enjoy the privilege of chauffeur-driven cars and diplomatic passports, but when it comes to paying their parking fines or footing the bill for local rubbish collection, foreign emissaries are refusing to pay their way, on a grand scale.
Embassies have used diplomatic immunity to run up over £3.5m in unpaid fines, including thousands of outstanding parking tickets, figures released by the Foreign Office show.
Diplomats, including those representing the world's richest countries - among them Saudi Arabia - owe almost £1m in unpaid domestic rates and are refusing to pick up their share of the bill for local services such as street cleaning.
The scale of unpaid fines has infuriated the Foreign Office, which has written to embassies demanding payment.
Diplomats based in the United Kingdom have also clocked up millions of pounds in unpaid London congestion charge fines since the introduction of the environmental levy almost two years ago.
The worst non-payers include the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy Middle East state, whose diplomatic staff have almost 5,000 outstanding congestion charge penalties adding up to £452,650.
The United States embassy has almost 1,000 unpaid congestion charge fines and owes the London authorities £62,250. South Africa owes £122,590 in congestion charge tickets.
Last year, almost 5,000 parking and speeding tickets were not paid by diplomatic staff.
But, unlike most drivers who would face a visit from the bailiffs if they refused to pay their fines, diplomats can escape penalties because they are immune from prosecution.
"We have informed missions that failure to pay fines could result in there being in a list presented to Parliament. We also wrote to all missions owing more than £1,000 in fines urging them to settle their debts," said a Foreign Office spokesman.
Diplomats used their special status to run up around £400,000 in unpaid parking tickets and other "traffic-violation fines", the figures show. Saudi Arabia has 243 fines outstanding, worth £21,980, while German diplomats ran up 128 unpaid fines, worth £12,230 last year.
Some missions have made arrangements to clear their debts and, after prompting by the Foreign Office, foreign diplomats settled £63,650 in unpaid traffic fines last year.
TOP 10 OFFENDERS
Unpaid congestion charge fines
United Arab Emirates £452,650
Sierra Leone £135,290
South Africa £122,590
Unpaid traffic fines
Saudi Arabia £21,980
Total: £151,480Reuse content