An Iranian man living in public housing in Wellington with his young family has won nearly $275,000 in a legal case against his former homeland’s embassy for unpaid renovations.
The painter and his company cannot be named for legal reasons, but court documents show he has taken legal action against the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran over work carried out at its premises in Wellington.
The embassy never fully paid the bills and now, after a court hearing, they are being charged $274,932. The painter’s lawyer, Chris Boys, confirmed that the embassy had still not paid the money, which was now overdue.
Ambassador Mohammad Reza Mofatteh was unavailable for comment at the Roseneath Embassy on Monday, but a woman from his Khandallah residence put him on the phone.
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“There is diplomatic immunity for a diplomatic location – you can’t take pictures,” he said. He would not discuss the court’s findings.
Diplomatic immunity, established by the Geneva Convention, means that foreign diplomats and their families cannot be prosecuted for most laws unless an exemption is granted.
Court documents show that the painter carried out work for the embassy in January 2020, and then in August of the same year.
The bills have only been partially paid. The painter sued the embassy in April, but the embassy did not appear.
Judge Kevin Kelly’s ruling noted that concerns had been raised about the embassy claiming diplomatic or consular immunity but, due to an earlier petition to the Embassy Disputes Tribunal – which was denied – this had been lifted.
“There is no reasonable defense on the facts, or any other reason why the defendant was not bound to perform its contractual obligations,” Judge Kelly’s ruling said.
He ordered that, for the January 2020 work, the embassy pay the painter $56,690 for unpaid bills, plus $1,697 in interest. For the second batch of work, in August 2020, the embassy is to pay $144,000 for unpaid “management work”, plus $3,272 in interest.
He also had to pay $31,917 for the purchase of building materials, plus $725 in interest, then another $36,000 for “loss of luck” plus $631 in interest.
The painter, who lives with his young family in Wellington council housing, had no comment when approached on Monday.
The ambassador’s invocation of diplomatic immunity has proven a thorny issue in Wellington’s previous cases.
In 2018, Eva Tvarozkova, Deputy Head of Mission for the European Union Delegation to New Zealand, ended her $1,500-a-week rental of a house in Karaka Bay six months after a three-year lease. years.
Landlords Matthew Ryan and Rebecca Van Den Bos obtained an order from the Rental Court awarding them $14,314.27.
But the order was overturned when diplomatic immunity was used to avoid footing the bill.
In 2014, Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail indecently assaulted a woman in his Brooklyn home.
He had worked at the Malaysian High Commission but fled the country believing he was entitled to diplomatic protection before being returned on extradition in 2015 and sentenced to nine months in house arrest.
And in 2010, Australian naval officer Mark Napier chose to waive his diplomatic immunity to face charges, to which he pleaded guilty, in Wellington District Court after more than 40,000 images of child exploitation were found on his computer.