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Old 21.08.2015, 16:12
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Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

If a person holds a carte de légitimation (diplomatic admin. staff member permit) and has an on going poursuite from people/companies, what will be the repercussion? Will the person have problems renewing the permit? Or is the person immune from the poursuite? I've searched the internet for some answers but couldn't find any. Perhaps some people here might have an idea. Thanks.
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Old 21.08.2015, 18:51
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

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If a person holds a carte de légitimation (diplomatic admin. staff member permit) and has an on going poursuite from people/companies, what will be the repercussion? Will the person have problems renewing the permit? Or is the person immune from the poursuite? I've searched the internet for some answers but couldn't find any. Perhaps some people here might have an idea. Thanks.
There are at least two questions here:

1. If the person is an expatriate (not-Swiss citizen) holder of a diplomatic or service ("official") passport and is accredited as a staff member of an embassy or mission (i.e. not an ambassador or diplomatic agent on the so-called "blue list" (I don't know what colour it actually is in Switzerland) but rather on the "white list" (which means that the person is not a household servant or other non-government employee), then that person has civil and criminal immunity only for his official acts. Look up the Devyani Khobragade incident (Indian consul in NYC case)). In real life, it all depends on the nature of the offense and minor criminal cases are either dropped or the staff member leaves post quietly.

2. For civil cases there are other issues. It is difficult but presumably not impossible in Switzerland to sue (but I think impossible to do so in the Office des poursuites) someone in a place where s/he is not domiciled. (I had two experiences: (1) when I sued a Swiss builder I could not do so in the place where its offices I had dealt with were located (Crissier), I had to do so in Frauenfeld (location of the corporate home office, siège social). (I won the case anyway, the firm conceded liability. Funnily enough the French-speaking Swiss were intractable; once I got a German-speaking officer of the company in court he was quite reasonable and pleasant: could that have been a cultural thing? Never mind I speak lawyerly French and halting German, which was the only language the businessman and the magistrate spoke.) (2) when a different firm threatened to claim against me for something I have now forgotten, the firm found it could not do so it the location of my Swiss holiday home or anywhere in Switzerland because I was not domiciled there. I got the impression it couldn't use that court at all, but anyway I settled the dispute although the fact that the firm couldn't use the Office des poursuites gave me more leverage.)

I would say that if a support-staff member bought something in his or her official capacity (a computer, say) for the embassy or mission and the mission failed to pay for it, the staff member could not be made personally liable. Indeed the embassy or mission couldn't either, but the Swiss Foreign Ministry has ways of putting pressure on missions. And a mission could be sued in its home country, maybe. A personal purchase by a staff member is that person's liability but I doubt that the Office of poursuites would be of much help to the creditor for the reason I just explained. If unpaid debts are large a diplomat or a staff person can be named persona non grata and have to leave the country. That doesn't happen often.

In real life, creditors and the police rely on a diplomat or a staff member's embassy or mission administrative officer to deal with issues such as unpaid parking tickets, dog bites, local debts and sometimes a public transport scofflaw p.v. (At a time when I was a diplomat in Switzerland my secretary's daughter got caught without a valid bus ticket. Neither the secretary nor the daughter spoke French, but the secretary's husband was a diplomatic agent on the blue list and once I explained that to the police the problem more or less went away. It didn't do much good for the police to shout at the teenager in a language she didn't understand, and anyway if she had a monthly pass at home as I suppose she did there would only have been a 5-franc admin charge.)

For what it is worth, insurance companies cannot benefit from a policyholder's diplomatic immunity. Believe me, it's been tried, insurers are like that.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by Caryl; 21.08.2015 at 19:06.
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Old 21.08.2015, 20:32
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

Thank you for the info, Caryl. The reason I asked is because that person already received multiple mails from Offices des poursuites for a substantial amount of money owed to a company. The said person is a non-diplomatic passport holder and is not swiss. The person only got a legitimation card because he was hired by a diplomatic mission. The person is also not a national of the mission she works for. I just want to know what the repercussion of her situation might be if she doesn't get things right.

If I understood it correctly, the office des poursuites might bring the situation to the diplomatic mission that person works for and she could lose her job?
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Old 21.08.2015, 23:06
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

An ambassador has total diplomatic immunity and has no worries, his staff have the same providing the ambassador backs it up.
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Old 21.08.2015, 23:54
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

My experience (working for an embassy way back) is that it depends on the country the person works for and the status of the employee.
We were told to pay tickets for traffic offenses, even if in principle these could be ignored.
Non diplomatic personnel does not have the rights as have diplomats, Geneva convention rules. Immunity only counts for diplomatic personnel, not for hired non diplomatic embassy employees.

The country I worked for was quite strict in this and people got into problems when not paying bills, traffic tickets etc
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Old 22.08.2015, 00:15
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

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Thank you for the info, Caryl. The reason I asked is because that person already received multiple mails from Offices des poursuites for a substantial amount of money owed to a company. The said person is a non-diplomatic passport holder and is not swiss. The person only got a legitimation card because he was hired by a diplomatic mission. The person is also not a national of the mission she works for. I just want to know what the repercussion of her situation might be if she doesn't get things right.

If I understood it correctly, the office des poursuites might bring the situation to the diplomatic mission that person works for and she could lose her job?
It seems, from what you say, that the person is simply an employee of a mission or a foreign diplomatic employee assigned to the mission. Sort of like our Filipina nanny when I was assigned to Switzerland. Such a person has no special status and his or her carte de légitimation depends not on the mission itself but on employment with a diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic (i.e. support staff, almost always but not strictly speaking necessarily having the nationality of the mission itself) person.

An overindebted diplomat or quasi-diplomat could be sued in his/her home country. A quasi-diplomat could be sued for personal debts in Switzerland provided that some Swiss court (such as the Office des poursuites) has jurisdiction. A household staff (or driver, etc.) of a mission or diplomat or quasi-diplomat has no procedural or diplomatic-law defence to any civil or criminal action. Whether an Office des poursuites has personal jurisdiction is something they could tell you, as could the protocol office of the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

In real life, creditors of diplomats and quasi-diplomats complain to embassies and/or foreign ministries all the time. Whether they get any result depends on the countries involved. Some countries' embassies are more responsive than others. I only had a couple of parking tickets in my career (none in Switzerland) and when I didn't pay on time my administrative officer called me in, showed me a computer printout he'd received from the foreign ministry, and asked me to take care of it. I don't remember whether I paid or not but I left the country soon after on reassignment anyway.

You wrote "a substantial amount of money". I never knew any nanny, maid or driver who had access to enough credit to owe a substantial amount so I can't offer any real-life experience. Could your employee be a "Third Country National" (TCN) employed as a clerk by the mission itself? I recall that some embassies and missions in Switzerland and elsewhere had long-term TCN employees. Like any other employer, diplomatic missions don't like to have overindebted staff. But it's more serious with a government because they have secrets to protect.

I don't think I can offer any more analysis. And this notwithstanding that I have a bookshelf full of materials on diplomatic law. People lose their jobs all the time over debts. That the employer would have to pay for repatriation of the individual and that the employing diplomat or mission might get dragged into an affair that could be published in the press could well affect the outcome.

Last edited by Caryl; 22.08.2015 at 00:27.
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Old 22.08.2015, 10:11
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

She could try going to the Office des Poursuite and make an payment arrangement with them. They are not as nasty as people think!!

Also, they seem to take months and months to send out the Poursuites and then give you lots of time to come to them with a solution.

There is also the Acte de defaut de biens - which is a paper they give you if you do not have sufficient funds to pay a debt. On this paper it lists what you pay in rent, if you have kids etc. I've had a few of those for years, and have only been summoned a couple of times to update my financial status with them.

They may also ask her employer to deduct cash from her salary.

I doubt she would be fired for having a debt. You'd be surprised how many people are deeply in debt, I don't think i know anyone who hasn't had at least one poursuite.

Which, of course, is nothing to be proud of!! But they are understanding, I have always found.

If she goes to the Office des Poursuite she should take at least half a day off work, the queues are very long.
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Old 22.08.2015, 16:16
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

Thank you for the helpful advices, everyone. The truth is, that person is in debt to a lot of people, including me. And there are no signs of her paying back to the people she owed, including a swiss health insurance. But she is a friend of mine and I want to know what I could tell her and maybe she'll realize the potential impact of it on her family's future in Switzerland. Imagine someone owes a lot of people at least a grand each and you see them buying new stuff every now and then.
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Old 22.08.2015, 17:40
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

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.......You'd be surprised how many people are deeply in debt, I don't think i know anyone who hasn't had at least one poursuite........
Nonsense, Patsy, you've met at least three!!!!
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Old 22.08.2015, 18:00
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

This is the link for the Foreign Nationals Act PDF in French. I did see some stuff re diplomats, etc, in there so have a look and see if there's anything relevant regarding conditions for permits being revoked (Section 7, starting page 289).

https://www.bfm.admin.ch/content/dam...ngen-aug-f.pdf
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Old 23.08.2015, 20:19
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Re: Diplomatic member staff and poursuite

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Thank you for the helpful advices, everyone. The truth is, that person is in debt to a lot of people, including me. And there are no signs of her paying back to the people she owed, including a swiss health insurance. But she is a friend of mine and I want to know what I could tell her and maybe she'll realize the potential impact of it on her family's future in Switzerland. Imagine someone owes a lot of people at least a grand each and you see them buying new stuff every now and then.
I was for a few years a bankruptcy lawyer in the USA working on cross-border bankruptcies. There are people born with the inability to manage credit. There is no point making a moral issue out of it, it's just how they are.

Swiss insolvency law, like that of every European country except England, Scotland and the two Irelands -- and, since the 1990s Scandinavia and Germany (and the Loi Neiertz in France) -- never contemplated consumer bankruptcy and discharge. The invention of the credit card changed everything and now obsolete laws have to deal with this real-life problem. I remember when all that existed in Continental Europe were debit cards (and indeed Eurocheques and Eurocheque cards). Those days are over: Subprime (so to speak) is here.

When I was at Unioversity a long time ago I lent $2 to a guy who warned me he was a bad credit risk, as indeed he proved to be. But in later years I lost far more from crooked financiers who told me "Trust me, I'm one of the good guys".

Such is life.
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