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Two men buy Caribbean island to start ‘own country’

Having an island was thought to be something that only the ultra-rich could afford, but not anymore. An ambitious project that was birthed in 2018 is making owning an island a reality for commoners. Meet Gareth Johnson and Marshall Mayer, co-founders of Let’s Buy An Island – a project that began in 2018.

According to a CNN report, the duo launched a crowd-funding campaign and was able to raise £250,000 through investors to purchase an uninhabited island in the Caribbean. They want to develop the area for tourism, share the profits and allow everyone to live their own “private island fantasy”.

“Who hasn’t dreamed of making their own country? Particularly in a post-Trump, post-Brexit, Covid world. If a bunch of regular people can make this work, perhaps it can be a force for good,” Johnson said.

Read more: New island emerges off Kund Malir coast

By December 2019, the man had raised enough funds to buy Coffee Caye, a 1.2-acre island off the coast of Belize, which became reimagined as the “Principality of Islandia”.

The micronation is not recognised officially but it benefits from many of the features of an autonomous country – it has its own national flag, anthem, and government.

“We are as close to a nation as you can get, without getting an army and a navy,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who also co-founded a company called Young Pioneers Tours, which specialises in extreme tourism to destinations like North Korea and Syria and unrecognised states such as Transnistria, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, initially came up with the idea nearly 15 years ago, having bought the domain name letsbuyanisland.com after deciding it could be fun to buy an island and start a micronation.

“When Gareth first put the idea to me, I thought God no, this will never become a reality. But he began to explain how much an island might cost, and we realised that actually, there are parts of the world where buying an island was much more realistic than I’d ever thought possible, especially if we clubbed our funds together,” Mayer added.

Also read: Greenland expedition discover ‘world’s northernmost island’

Each share on the island would cost $3,250 (appx Rs580,775). People could buy as many as they wanted but each individual would only be allowed one vote in the democratic decision-making process. After looking at islands in the Philippines, Malaysia, Ireland, Panama and Belize, Coffee Caye was purchased for $180,000 plus tax.

The duo has sold almost 100 shares with investors from 25 different countries. “People really bought into the concept. It was a crazy leap of faith to take, but our initial goal of buying an island, we’ve done it. But the next phase, where we go to next, we never had any plans because we didn’t know we’d make it this far,” Mayer added.

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