June 24, 2018 / 12:21 PM / in 5 months

Former tennis champion Becker says diplomatic passport is real

LONDON (Reuters) - Former tennis champion Boris Becker said on Sunday he has a genuine diplomatic passport from the Central African Republic after the country’s foreign minister called it a fake.

FILE PHOTO: Former tennis player Boris Becker poses for photographers at the world premiere of the film "I am Bolt" in London, Britain, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Becker, 50, has claimed diplomatic immunity from bankruptcy proceedings in London by taking up a role with Central African Republic as a sports envoy.

The country’s foreign minister told Reuters last week that a copy of the diplomatic passport he had seen was a “clumsy fake” and was launching an inquiry into who issued the document.

But Becker, the German former world number one and a three-times winner of Wimbledon, told the BBC that he received the passport at an official ceremony.

“I don’t know what is internally happening within the politics of Central Africa Republic, but I have received the passport from the ambassador,” he said.

“I have spoken to the president on many occasions. It was an official inauguration. I believe the documents they have given me must be right.”

Becker was declared bankrupt by a British court in 2017 in connection with a debt to private bankers Arbuthnot Latham & Co. He has recently been pursued for “further assets”, according to a statement by his lawyers.

Becker claims he was approached by the Central African Republic’s president in February with the offer to become a diplomat and in April he was appointed an attache to the European Union for sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs.

Although the former tennis player said he has not visited the Central African Republic, he has held three or four meetings with the president and more with the country’s ambassador. He did not specify which ambassador he was referring to.

Asked if he would be willing to visit the Central African Republic to resolve the dispute, he said: ‘I am very happy to visit Bangui, the capital, and to speak to the people personally about how we can move forward and resolve this misunderstanding and this confusion.”

Becker became the first German to win Wimbledon in 1985, aged 17. He won it again in 1986 and 1989.

He remains a familiar figure to British tennis fans as part of the BBC commentary team for Wimbledon which starts next week.

Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Keith Weir

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