28 November 2022

It has long been suspected that governments riddled with corruption have allowed this reflex to extend – for a fee – to appointing rogues of all sorts to represent them as ‘honorary consuls’ in foreign states that permit them, as the vast majority do. These rogues include drug traffickers, money launderers and dealers in the illegal arms trade. That this is allowed to go on is a great shame because most honorary consuls are worthy men and women who do valuable work and do not deserve to be spoken of in the same breath as these people. The spotlight, however, has now been turned on the rogues and their complicit governments by a joint effort of investigative reporters from the New York-based non-profit, ProPublica, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (who brought the world The Panama Papers). The first fruits of their work are now freely available here.

What I was particularly struck by in this report is the suggestion that in the Middle East and Africa, in particular, it is relatively easy for honorary consuls to pass themselves off as, in effect, government-salaried career consular officers, thereby gaining the somewhat stronger privileges and immunities permitted the latter (together with their immediate families) under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963.
I have just learned that these reporters now have in their sights  the task of exposing Putin-appointed honorary consuls engaged in propaganda and  political warfare. See their ‘Agents of Influence: How Russia Deploys an Army of Shadow Diplomats’ , published on 4 December 2022.
See also ‘Shadow Diplomats Have Posed a Threat for Decades. The World’s Governments Looked the Other Way’,  22 December 2022.