Roads authority on the trail of Vatican car over unpaid M50 toll charge
A CAR registered in the Vatican is among thousands of foreign vehicles being pursued for non-payment of the M50 toll.
The refusal of motorists from outside Ireland to pay the €3.10 charge is costing taxpayers €1m a year, new figures show.
And the National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that a vehicle registered in the Vatican is in the sights of an international collection agency after they failed to pay the charge.
The world's smallest state has a population of just 800 people, so tracing the offender is unlikely to be difficult.
A spokesman for the NRA said it expected the outstanding tolls to be paid.
"We're communicating with them (the offenders) through our enforcement agency, Euro Park Collections, and we would expect a response within a reasonable amount of time," he said.
"If they refuse to pay, we will follow up again. There's a procedure we go through where the costs are brought to bear, and if it is more costly to pursue than not, we will stop.
"Euro Park Collections have a good success rate for collecting tolls."
Others from far-flung countries who used the motorway without paying are also on the radar, including motors from Argentina, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Cuba.
But most offenders are owners of vehicles registered here, some of which have been seized for non-payment.
Some 110,000 vehicles use the motorway every day, but 4pc don't pay. Of these, half (2,200) are registered in the Republic. Foreign-registered cars from outside Ireland owe an estimated €1m in unpaid tolls.
The NRA said it had issued 30,000 civil summons since the M50 went barrier-free in September 2007, with 12,500 judgments handed down against toll evaders in the courts. Another 1,200 were passed on to sheriffs for collection, who can collect the money owed or seize vehicles.
A series of sample cases provided by the NRA show:
* One vehicle was seized in Ballybrack in Co Dublin on foot of a court order of €5,624 for non-payment of tolls. The evader paid the amount, plus costs. The owner of a Honda who owed €1,260 also paid up after a court judgment.
* A Mercedes van, on which €5,310.37 was owed, and a Toyota car from Whitehall where fines and penalties of €1,591.66 were incurred, were sold at auction.
* A defendant who owned and rented five taxis was forced to pay a fine of €5,000 after a driver who leased the vehicle failed to pay the tolls. The judge ruled he had to pay because, as the registered owner of the vehicle, he was responsible.
A spokesperson from the NRA said it would chase offenders, and said anyone in arrears should contact eFlow, which collects the toll.
"It is never too late to make contact with eFlow to settle your account," he said.