The Republic of Venezuela has been taken to court by a Canberra family who alleges the country owes them thousands in unpaid rent money.
- Venezuela is before the court over an alleged failure to pay its rent at its Australian embassy
- The nation sought to have the claim dismissed, but failed
- Venezuela is currently facing the worst economic crisis in its history
The Rosa family claimed the South American nation had missed more than $50,000 in rent payments for two properties in O’Malley it had previously used as an embassy.
In documents seeking a hearing in the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the family claimed that from 2017 the republic began to fall behind in payments, and eventually vacated under contentious circumstances.
In October of that year, the embassy made headlines when its landlord blockaded the entrance using a construction vehicle.
Things boiled over when top Venezuelan skier Cesar Augusto Baena Sierraalta struck the landlord, claiming the man had showed disrespect for his country.
Mr Sierraalta pleaded guilty and was released on a good behaviour order, with no conviction recorded.
Hearings to proceed despite ‘diplomatic immunity’
The Republic of Venezuela sought to have the Rosa family’s rent claim dismissed, but the tribunal determined a hearing would proceed.
“I do appreciate that the respondent may be placed in a difficult, and perhaps even diplomatically embarrassing, situation by being required to respond to proceedings in this tribunal,” senior tribunal member H Robinson said in his decision.
“That alone is not a basis upon which this tribunal can or should dismiss these proceedings.”
Venezuela is currently facing the worst economic crisis in its history, marked by hyperinflation, unpayable debts and poverty.
Mr Robinson noted the situation was “clearly volatile” and that the relationship between the parties was “antagonistic”, but said there was merit in the Rosa family’s claim.
“There is a serious allegation that a lot of rent is owed,” he said.
Mr Robinson conceded that, even if a ruling could be made against the Republic of Venezuela, it was questionable whether that could be enforced.
Venezuela said its diplomatic immunity rendered the matter futile.
The next hearing is set down for August.
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