There's a bid for Sealand, me hearties

AHOY! Pirates!The opportunity to take over the independent mini-state Sealand has today been spied by some unlikely candidates.

AHOY! Pirates!

The opportunity to take over the independent mini-state Sealand has today been spied by some unlikely candidates.

Negotiations have started with a bidder for the right to take over Sealand, off the Suffolk coast - but the pirate-folk might be priced out as the asking price is nearly ten times what was first thought.

Estate agents acting on behalf of principality's royal family say the asking price is £500 million.

Spanish estate agency Inmonaranja, which is handling the sale of the tenancy, say there has been fantastic interest from around the world from people wanting to run their own island since it was put on the market two weeks ago.

The first serious offer has now been received from a group called The Pirate Bay - an internet site which wants to use Sealand to set up a copyright-free country.

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It has set up an organisation called ACFI which is described as “a group of people working for the people's right to its internets” and has appealed on the worldwide web for people to donate to the project.

A Pirate Bay spokesman said: “The initiative is taken by us and some friends. The goal is to raise enough money to either buy Sealand - or some other small island somewhere.

“The price for Sealand is probably about $2,000 million. We don't really care. We're going for it anyhow.

“We really want to see what the community can do - with its own island. Since we are all for sharing the country would be shared among us all.”

The Pirate Bay's website describes itself as a file-sharing site where software can be shared and downloaded among members - though it warns that some material might be offensive and people should not complain.

Its site lists a number of legal threats which have been made against it by software publishers.

One of the world's smallest countries, 550 sq m Sealand, seven miles off Felixstowe, is this year celebrating its 40th anniversary and currently undergoing major refurbishment work following a fire last summer.

People who take over would get a country with high-speed internet access and no copyright laws.

The former war-time fort has been ruled for the past four decades by Major Roy Bates and his family but they are looking to “transfer” tenancy to someone else to raise money for investment, although they would still keep ownership.

Prince Regent, Prince Michael of Sealand, said: “You cannot sell sovereignty so we will still own Sealand and be its royal family, but this is a chance for someone to live there and run Sealand on a day to day basis, though they would have to agree to the country's laws and constitution.”

WEBLINKS:

www.sealandgov.org

www.thepiratebay.org

www.buysealand.com

www.inmobiliarianaranja.es

Would you like to live on Sealand? What would you use it for? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

Sealand was built as a North Sea war-time fort called Roughs Tower in 1941 at a cost of £1m.

Its two 70ft concrete towers weigh 4,500 tons and contain seven storeys of living quarters.

Visible from Felixstowe seafront, it was used for pirate radio stations in the 1960s.

In 1967, Roy Bates, now 82, a wealthy businessman and former 8th Army Royal Fusiliers major, and his wife Joan, a former beauty queen, declared it as the sovereign state of Sealand.

It has its only currency, flag, stamps, national anthem, constitution and laws.

Over the past four decades the weatherbeaten structure has been the scene of many colourful incidents and its history is as chequered as any of the most volatile hot spots around the world.

There have been at least seven attempts by raiders to try to seize it from the Bates family with petrol bombs, shotguns and hand-to-hand fighting.

One German man was even imprisoned for seven weeks before receiving a royal pardon, and in the 1990s there was considerable concern after Interpol found forged Sealand passports being used to launder money from drug smuggling.

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