Flush with billions of dollars from Qatari royal family’s oil wealth, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani recently purchased six Greek islands in the Ionian Sea for a paltry sum of $11.1 million.
The purchase illustrates Greece’s distressed economy, where property taxes have soared leading to a real estate bonanza, particularly for the super-rich, in the debt-ridden euro zone country.
“The islands have been in my family for over 150 years but we are not rich enough to be able to keep such valuable properties any longer," said Deniz Grivas, whose family owned the titles to five of the islands, the Guardian reported. "We are very, very happy to see them go. They have been on the market for nearly 40 years."
The island's property market appears to be working in the buyers’ favor, as the emir is reported to have purchased one of the islands, Oxia, for $6.5 million, far below the original asking price of $9.1 million.
Mayor Ioannis Kassianos, of Ithaca, the island municipality which encompasses the purchased isle, spoke of the Qatari royal family’s wealth and plans to amass even more property within the archipelago known as the Echinades.
"They have a fund with a couple of hundred million in it," Kassianos told the Guardian. "And as far as I know they want to buy all 18 of the islands, the whole lot.”
A number of Greek islands have hit the market with price tags between $1.5 million and $200 million, and the government has made an effort to draw in foreign buyers.
“Purchasing an island in Greece is relatively straightforward,” reads a promotional description on island real estate broker Private Islands Online’s website. “Regardless of nationality, anybody can be a property owner.”
“In order for anyone to purchase property in Greece a tax number or AFM -- as it is known in Greece -- must be obtained,” it adds. “AFM's are easily acquired and can be issued at any tax office with a valid passport.”
Still, the emir, whose personal wealth is estimated at around $2.4 billion, did have to wait 18 months before acquiring the titles to the islands.
“Greece is that kind of place,” Kassianos said. "Even when you buy an island, even if you are the emir of Qatar, it takes a year and a half for all the paperwork to go through."
Ryan Villarreal reports on foreign affairs with a focus on Latin America. He also covers human rights and environmental issues worldwide....