A New Zealander has had his dream of buying a Mediterranean island foiled by an eleventh-hour bid by the Italian government.
Michael Harte, who is paid $1.89 million a year as chief information officer of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, bought the tiny island of Budelli for €2.94m ($4.8m) last October after its owner went bust.
Budelli is part of a group of islands between Sardinia and Corsica.
A high-profile campaign was fought to save Budelli from foreign ownership, and the Senate in Rome passed legislation enabling the government to buy it.
Italian publication Repubblica reported that on Tuesday, a day before the deadline, the Italian government submitted an application to buy the island.
It said the decision was controversial, with some questioning the expenditure during an economic crisis.
After buying the island, Harte, 47, described himself as a committed conservationist and pledged to keep it in pristine condition.
He said he would allow day trippers and yacht owners to continue to visit the 170-hectare island.
The island, a rocky outcrop with pink sandy beaches, featured in director Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960s film Deserto Rosso (Red Desert) starring Richard Harris and Monica Vitti.
Among its few buildings are a caretaker's house and the ruins of a cabin, along with a dry-stone wall along the beach.
It is understood the Italian government will pay Harte the original asking price to reclaim the island.
- Fairfax Media