Becker’s grand save

FOR­MER TEN­NIS STAR BE­COMES DIPLO­MAT — KEEP­ING CRED­I­TORS FROM HIS DOOR

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - Christo­pher hope in Lon­don

Boris Becker has de­clared him­self a diplo­mat for a small African coun­try in a bid to stop cred­i­tors chas­ing him for tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in debts.

The three-time Wim­ble­don ten­nis cham­pion was de­clared bank­rupt last sum­mer and ear­lier this year launched an ap­peal to find his miss­ing tro­phies to try to pay off more than $90 mil­lion.

He is due to be one of the BBC’s com­men­ta­tors when the Wim­ble­don ten­nis cham­pi­onships start next month. Now his lawyers have told the High Court that Becker qui­etly be­came a “sport­ing, cul­tural and hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs” at­taché for the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic on April 27.

A de­fi­ant Becker said Thursday he was “im­mensely proud” of his new role — and at­tacked the “bunch of anony­mous and un­ac­count­able bankers and bu­reau­crats” chas­ing him for money.

Ac­cord­ing to the 1961 Vi­enna Con­ven­tion, he can­not be sub­ject to le­gal process in the courts of any coun­try for so long as he re­mains a rec­og­nized diplo­matic agent. He can­not be sued for the cash with­out the con­sent of the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, while le­gal claims can only be served on him through diplo­matic chan­nels. Any le­gal ac­tion would re­quire the agree­ment of Boris John­son, the U.K. for­eign sec­re­tary, as well as the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic’s for­eign min­is­ter. Ex­perts said that any­one could be­come a for­eign diplo­mat if in­vited to do so by the coun­try.

Becker’s de­ci­sion to be­come a diplo­mat could mean that none of the money he is ex­pected to re­ceive for com­men­tat­ing for the BBC at Wim­ble­don will go to his cred­i­tors.

“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,” said Becker in a state­ment. “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. Once this gravy train for the suits has been stopped in its tracks, my lawyers will turn to the ques­tion of com­pen­sa­tion.”

Becker has hired Ben Em­mer­son, a lead­ing hu­man rights lawyer who has acted for Wik­iLeaks’ Ju­lian As­sange, to han­dle his diplo­matic im­mu­nity claim.

His bank­ruptcy fol­lowed $35-mil­lion di­vorce and pa­ter­nity set­tle­ments with his first wife, Bar­bara Fel­tus, and An­gela Er­makova, a Rus­sian model, as well as a two-year sus­pended sen­tence for tax eva­sion in Ger­many.

Ger­many’s Der Spiegel mag­a­zine claimed Becker may have lost his $170 mil­lion for­tune in part be­cause of ques­tion­able in­vest­ments in the Nige­rian oil in­dus­try. Becker did not com­ment on the claim.

When his ca­reer ended in 1999 with six grand slam vic­to­ries, Becker never needed to work again. He had ac­cu­mu­lated more than $40 mil­lion in prize money.

As he be­came a fix­ture on the Lon­don so­cial scene, he never lacked for com­pany. The prob­lem was, when the bill came, the com­pany in­vari­ably van­ished.

His whirligig so­cial life took its toll on his first mar­riage. Fel­tus, whom he mar­ried in 1993 and with whom he had two sons, left him in Lon­don and headed for Mi­ami; their di­vorce set­tle­ment over­shad­owed even his most ex­trav­a­gant nights out. She was awarded more than $14 mil­lion, plus cus­tody of the chil­dren.

Fel­tus had walked out on him af­ter be­ing con­tacted by Er­makova, the Rus­sian model who claimed to be preg­nant with his child. The pair had en­joyed the briefest of meet­ings in a fash­ion­able Lon­don restau­rant; the ru­mour was that it had oc­curred in a broom cup­board. He hardly calmed the hub­bub when, in an at­tempt to put the record straight, he in­sisted it had been on the stairs.

Af­ter ini­tially re­fus­ing to ac­cept pa­ter­nity, he agreed to take a DNA test and, when it proved him wrong, be­came hap­pily rec­on­ciled with his daugh­ter Anna.

In­deed in 2007, he took on joint cus­tody and en­joys a close re­la­tion­ship with the teenager, as he does with his sons from his first mar­riage. Noah, now a mu­si­cian liv­ing in Ber­lin and 18-year-old model Elias were both guests of hon­our at his 50th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions at the Ivy restau­rant in Lon­don last Novem­ber.

More pri­vate tur­moil be­came ap­par­ent, how­ever, when in 2017 he was de­clared bank­rupt af­ter a Lon­don pri­vate bank fore­closed on a loan said to be more than $3 mil­lion.

The news seemed, mo­men­tar­ily, to di­min­ish his enor­mous re­serves of self-con­fi­dence. He put on weight, looked jaded and de­flated.

Last month, he and his sec­ond wife, a Dutch model, an­nounced they were separat­ing af­ter nine years of mar­riage.

Their son Amadeus, Becker’s fourth child, was born in 2010.

At the time of their wed­ding, he de­clared that she was go­ing to tame him: “When you’ve done the par­ty­ing, done the mod­els, ev­ery­thing else is a re­peat,” he said.

JEAN CATUFFE / GETTY IM­AGES

Much-in­debted Boris Becker be­came a “sport­ing, cul­tural and hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs” at­taché for the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic ear­lier this year.

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