World's Smallest 'Country' for Sale

The world's smallest "country" is going on the chopping block.

The self-proclaimed sovereign principality of Sealand, built atop a World War II artillery platform in the North Sea, is for sale for the whopping price tag of $977 million.

Its price tag and remote accessibility would make it perfect for a James Bond villain. Sealand's past is just as colorful as any Ian Fleming novel.

Click here to visit Sealand's official "government" Web site.

Built by the British Navy in 1941 in international waters off the coast of Harwich, England, the approximately 1,800-square-foot steel platform set atop two concrete towers was abandoned after World War II.

Enter Paddy Roy Bates, who along with his family, occupied the structure in 1967 and proclaimed its sovereign principality, dubbing himself and his wife prince and princess of the island.

That sovereignty claim lead to a decade's long struggle for control with the United Kingdom that included a lawsuit and the jury-rigging of international water boundaries.

In 1974, Roy of Sealand introduced a constitution, and a flag, currency, national anthem and official passport followed. German businessmen allegedly attempted to kidnap Roy's son, Michael, from the platform in 1978 in a botched business deal.

As of late, the platform has been home to an offshore Internet company.

Spanish property firm InmoNaranja is listing the property as a micronation. The listing says the "nation" is "not for sale, but yes to transfer."

The Bates family wants to pass Sealand on to a caretaker that will maintain the economic and sovereign spirit of the "principality," according to the listing. The InmoNaranja listing is for $977 million, but the London Telegraph put the figure closer to $126 million and AFP reckoned the Bateses would entertain any bid over eight figures. An e-mail sent to Sealand by was not returned Monday.

Click here to read the Sealand real-estate listing (in Spanish).

There's a reason for the wiggle room. According to Sealand's official Web site, the principality "suffered a devastating fire which has crippled its infrastructure significantly" in June 2006.

Agence France-Press reported that the sale had to do with the age of its founder.

"We have owned the island for 40 years now and my father is 85," the AFP quoted "Prince Michael" Bates of Sealand as saying. "Perhaps it is time for some rejuvenation. Astronomical figures have been mentioned but we will just see what comes forward."

The future titleholder of Sealand will likely share the same pioneering spirit proffered by the platform's motto: E Mare Libertas — "From the Sea, Freedom."

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