Diplomats owe $17 mln in New York parking fines

NEW YORK Sat Sep 24, 2011 5:19pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City is owed nearly $17 million in parking tickets issued to diplomats, a hefty amount that may have grown this week as world leaders gathered for the U.N. General Assembly.

The city's Department of Finance said unpaid tickets totalled $16.7 million through the end of July. Egypt topped the list with $1.9 million in tickets, followed by Nigeria with about $1 million and Indonesia with about $725,000.

U.S. congressmen Michael Grimm, Peter King and Edolphus Towns have introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on countries with diplomats who fail to pay parking fines in New York City.

"We can only imagine how much is being racked up this week," Grimm's spokeswoman, Carol Danko, said of the diplomats and world leaders who met at the United Nations in New York.

Under current law, 110 percent of total unpaid parking fines owed to New York City and Washington will be withheld from the foreign aid and obligations to the offending countries.

But the stiffed cities don't recover any of the money, Danko said.

The proposed legislation asks the U.S. State Department to deny the renewal of diplomatic licenses to any country with outstanding parking fines.

New York City is home to 289 foreign missions and consulates. The diplomats' tickets were issued for safety violations including blocking fire hydrants.

"There's no such thing as 'diplomatic immunity' from paying parking tickets," Grimm said when the legislation was introduced in May.

"If you get a ticket in NYC, you have to pay it. No exceptions. New York City's budget is tight enough as it is, and foreign diplomats do not deserve a free pass at the expense of New York City taxpayers." (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)

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