Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson said the legislation and constitution must be reviewed carefully so that the public ownership of nature and natural resources can be secured and that the acquisition by a Chinese investment company of the land Grímsstadir á Fjöllum in northeast Iceland must be considered with the nation’s overall interest in mind. People are often too quick to accept offers like these, he commented.
Huang Nubo, who chairs the investment company Zhongkun Group, is planning to construct a luxury hotel on the land and enhance eco-tourism in the region. Permission from Icelandic authorities is required, ruv.is reports.
“It is important to raise awareness of the fact that acquisition like this isn’t legal. However, it is possible to apply for an exemption from the law and such an application hasn’t arrived on my desk yet but when it does, we will look at it carefully,” the minister said.
He added the discussion of a framework program on the protection and harnessing of natural resources is closely connected to the discussion of the acquisition of foreign parties of land in Iceland and raises many questions.
“The legislative body saw reason to limit the relocation of Icelandic land to foreign parties. We have to ask ourselves whether that limitation has become obsolete. I think not,” Jónasson continued.
“But now we face the fact that a foreign tycoon wants to buy 300 square kilometers of Icelandic land. We have to discuss it and not swallow without chewing; would we find it all right if the entire country were sold this way?” he asked.
The minister said the acquisition offer should remind people of the importance of the ownership of land where nature is considered private property and the profits from it are intended for private parties. Therefore laws and the constitution must be reviewed carefully, he reasoned.
Minister of Industry and Tourism Katrín Júlíusdóttir is not as concerned, pointing out that natural resources are being reviewed by the current government and an overall policy on natural resources is underway. The current legal environment is fit to deal with acquisition of land, she told ruv.is.
“I find it positive if people want to develop Icelandic tourism, especially if people are looking towards large-scale investments. It is in the spirit of this government to support that. However, when it comes to harnessing the country’s resources different rules are in effect,” she pointed out.
According to ruv.is, Zhongkun Group is prepared to pay ISK 1 billion (USD 8.8 million, EUR 6.1 million) for Grímsstadir á Fjöllum.
Huang established the company, which focuses on investments in real estate and tourism, in 1995. The company has grown quickly and has invested in the US, Japan and elsewhere.
For example, in 2003 Zhongkun Group built a mall in Los Angeles, bought a 1,000-hectare piece of land in Nashville, Tennessee, and built a Chinese center in New York for USD 73 million (ISK 8.3 billion, EUR 50 million).
Last year Huang established a cultural fund in Iceland, contributing USD 1 million (ISK 114 million, EUR 689,000) to the fund. The investor favors the outdoors and has traveled widely, among other locations to the North Pole.
Grímsstadir á Fjöllum has been advertised for sale for some time on the website grimsstadir.com. It has now been closed.
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