LONDON — Boris Becker, the former tennis star, hails from Germany, lives in England, and has had homes in, among other places, Switzerland, Monaco, Spain and the United States. But now, he says, he represents (wait for it) the Central African Republic.
Mr. Becker, 50, is trying to fend off creditors who forced him into bankruptcy last year, but instead of the usual debtor’s defense of insolvency, he is claiming diplomatic immunity.
On Thursday, his lawyer told the High Court of Justice in London that British courts could not touch Mr. Becker because the Central African Republic — by some measures, the world’s poorest country — named him in April as its attaché to the European Union for sports, culture and humanitarian affairs.
“He may not be made subject to any legal process, whatever the merits, without the express consent of the Central African Republic; and legal claims can only be served on him through diplomatic channels,” the lawyer, Ben Emmerson said in a statement.
“So long as he remains a recognized diplomatic agent,” Mr. Emmerson said, any action against Mr. Becker must also be approved by Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary.
He did not say whether Mr. Becker had ever visited the Central African Republic, a nation that has suffered wars, coups, dictatorships and famine. Its annual gross domestic product, per person, is less than $400, according to the World Bank.
It was not clear whether the High Court would accept Mr. Emmerson’s argument — or, for that matter, whether Britain or the Central African Republic would, in fact, recognize Mr. Becker as a legitimate diplomatic agent.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which Mr. Johnson heads, said it had “no record of Mr. Becker being appointed to any diplomatic mission in the U.K., but were he to be so it would be for a court to determine any immunity.”
As a tennis player, Mr. Becker won six Grand Slam singles titles, including three at Wimbledon, and his love life made him a favorite of the tabloid press.
He won millions of dollars in prize money, and has had several business ventures over the years, including a line of branded tennis gear. He has often been a tennis commentator on television, and for a few years, he coached Novak Djokovic, formerly the world’s top-ranked player.
He has also racked up tens of millions of dollars in debt, according to European news reports and some of his former associates. Last year, a Swiss court rejected the largest publicized claim against him, by a former business partner who said Mr. Becker owned him more than $40 million.
A private banking firm in London, Arbuthnot Latham, petitioned for bankruptcy proceedings against him, claiming that payment of a large debt — the amount was not made public — was almost two years overdue. Mr. Becker insisted that he just needed a little time to sell assets to cover the obligation.
But last year, a court registrar declared him bankrupt, finding that he could not repay his debts, and adding that he seemed to be in denial about his situation. The case is forcing the sale of valuable memorabilia, including his Wimbledon trophies.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Becker said, “a bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats pushed me into a completely unnecessary declaration of bankruptcy.”
He called the case a “gravy train for the suits,” and warned, “I will be coming after the people who forced this process through.”