Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Beware of the Costa Rican islands for sale scam!

By Uri Ridelman

Note: This article has been written mostly by translating an article published in the Costa Rican newspaper Diario Extra. I just added a few things that the original article didn't mention. If you want to read the original article (in Spanish) click here.

Journalist Marco Leandro of the Costa Rican Diario Extra newspaper revealed yesterday that there are several on-line companies trying to rip-off people from around the world by offering Costa Rican islands for sale, some of them for as little as $1.5 million.

'For that price you buy not only the island itself but the monkeys, gators, butterflies, birds, waterfalls and palm trees in it,' writes Leandro in the article. In other words you get the rights to everything.

One of those companies is Private Islands Online, a company that describes itself as "the largest concentrated island market in the world … a one-stop shop where you can access a worldwide island inventory."

The company, which also offers islands from all over the world for sale, states that although "foreigners can't buy islands in the territorial waters of Costa Rica they can lease, with some restrictions a private island for up to 20 years by using renewable leases called 'concesiones'."

This however is not true because according to Costa Rican laws the Costa Rican islands belong to the government, therefore there is no such thing as a private island in Costa Rica.

Furthermore, congresswoman Ana Elena Chacon of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) told Diario Extra that the country islands can under no circumstance be sold because they belong to all the Costa Ricans, they can only be given away in concessions. However, only the Legistlative Assembly (Congress) is authorized to legally offer the government's islands in concessions.

This means that no private company can claim it can legally negotiate a Costa Rican island with a potential buyer nor accept funds for the sale of an island.

Despite all this, Private Island Online announces on its Web site several "islands for sale in Costa Rica" including Gypsy Island for $4.5 million, Punta Piedra Island (which supposedly has already been sold) for $1.5 million and Isla de Cedros Island at a price that will be disclosed "on request."

Chacon told Diario Extra that this is clearly a scam, and it should be investigated by the Costa Rican authorities.

Private Islands Online even boasts the fact that these islands include several permits and licenses required to run businesses on them.

For example of Gypsy Island the company writes:

"The island has original ICT permits for commercial tourism, with 18 approved resort use building sites on the low lying area. Additionally, there is a (run down) dock for safe anchorage, and the remains of the original bar, restaurant, cabins which were developed by the original owner. The island has a liquor license, which in itself is worth over $100,000."

Jalile Esna, a congresswoman of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), told Diario Extra that she will personally start an investigation to find out what this is all about.

Other islands mentioned as for sale in the Diario Extra article are Violin Island and Jesuit Island.

Message from the Tiquicia's Blog Web master:
Even though Private Islands Online may be legally dealing with private islands in other countries around the world, what it is doing in Costa Rica is clearly illegal. People should be warned that no Costa Rican island is for sale because there are no such things as private islands in this country.

If someone owns one already, he/she must know that the papers they have claiming ownership of the island are a)probably fake or b)legitimate but obtained by bribing Costa Rican government officials.

Perhaps the best thing to do if you think you have been a victim of this scam is to contact your local Costa Rican embassy or consulate.

After doing some research on the internet I found out that there is another company called Tropical Islands that also offers islands for sale and has Punta Piedra in its listings for a price of $6 milllion despite the fact that Private Islands Online supposedly already sold it for $1.5 million.

Private Islands Online is located at 550 Queen St. East Suite 330 in Toronto, Canada; while Tropical Islands, according to the mailing address is located in Miami, Fla.

Uri R.


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting article that you posted. However I am not sure that it is entirely accurate. I was looking at the website and it appears they aren't the ones selling islands.

Its true they have islands listed on the site for sale in Costa Rica. However, if you look at the listing, at the bottom it says inquire about this island, which allows you to send an e-mail to the islands broker or owner. Therefore it would appear that if here is any wrong doing going on, it is not private islands online, rather the people who are having it listed on the site.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to another website called luxury real estate that appears to be selling the islands in Costa Rica.

Like private islands online it looks like this site just lists the island for the people who are selling. They have a link to the agent who appears to be selling these islands. Perhaps thats the person they should be talking to to sort this mess out.

The link will not fit in the comment box but if you go to
select costa rica for country and islands for category it will take you to a page showing three islands.

Anonymous said...


Your story is not the best reporting. This site clearly is a magazine that advertises these isalnds for real estate brokers and owners. You need to get in touch with the agents who are legally responsible for advertising these islands.

Here is a link the the island you speak about listed with the agent responsible:

Costa Rica

Uri R. said...

Ok thank you guys, I will further take a look at this and in case you are right I will let you know by posting a follow-up story.

In any case this site should know better than just posting anything that the agents responsible for advertising and selling the islands list.

Furthermore, no agent/broker can be legally authorized to sell any islands because the article clearly mentions that they can't be sold just given in concession, and the only one authorized to do so is the Legislative Assembly.

I'm sure Costa Rican authorities will eventually send an email to the email you guys mention, to speak to the person claiming to be a "broker" or "owner" of these islands.

Private Islands Online clearly has a lack of control somewhere down the chain of command.

If the company allows these postings to continue they will get in legal trouble with the government of Costa Rica, and they are the only ones to blame for that.

rogue gamer said...

It makes for good news to get everyone in Costa Rica all fired up about their land. The truth is, Costa Rica has been selling land off for years and years to gringos all over the world. Why is everyone getting uptight just because it's islands. What about the jungle, isn't that an important ecosystem too? What about plain old waterfront? I don't hear anyone complaining about their big fat wallets on that front. I mean seriously.

Uri R said...

Rogue gamer:

you make a good point there, however there's a slight difference.

The land and lots you talk about are indeed private properties and unfortunately the owners can do whatever they want with them, which is often to accept the content of big-fat wallets full of dollars.

The islands on the other hand belong to the State of Costa Rica, which includes all the Ticos in this country. No island has ever been sold, just given in concession for up to 20 years.

Therefore, no one can re-sell the island or deal them in any way.

The owner of a concession might be able to sell the concession to another person but there is a legal process to follow and the government has to be involved and ultimately approve the deal to the new person.

The listing of these islands as "for sale" is illegal because they are not private property and all the Costa Ricans have the right to have free access to them.

Anonymous said...


There are hundreds of sites that advertise real estate internationally. Viviun, escapeartist, glocon are some of the big ones. They work like classified ads for real estate. If a real estate agent is selling swamp land or illegally obtained property on their classifieds, do you go after the newspaper who published it? Or do you go after the agent who listed it? In this case a well known american real estate firm Coldwell Banker is listing these islands; they are the ones who should be questioned. Blaming the messenger just ads to the ignorance. I took a look at Private Islands Online's Costa Rica and Mexico sections and their information about foreign ownership seems to be quite transparent.
Go look at the Coldwell Banker listing for the Island in Costa Rica:

The content seems identical, but without the foreign ownership warnings, and from a large real estate company!

rogue gamer said...

Costa Rica has a law that says all Costa Rican people have a right to beaches. Even if someone owns a condo right on the water, we can still swim there. The same must be true for islands.
But the matter is, isn't the article just splitting hairs. It's all about the words. Leasing, concessiones, they're all the same thing. At least the islands don't stay with the gringos forever, not like the rest of the country.

Uri R said...

Anonymous said:

"If a real estate agent is selling swamp land or illegally obtained property on their classifieds, do you go after the newspaper who published it? Or do you go after the agent who listed it? In this case a well known american real estate firm Coldwell Banker is listing these islands; they are the ones who should be questioned."

I totally agree with you and I'm sure they eventually will.

I understand that Private Islands Online may not be directly responsible for the scam with the islands and are not the only ones doing it, but having the islands listed as for sale sure isn't right.

They should remove that and start getting some kind of control over their content.

A good starting move would be to remove those ads while this mess is cleared.

I have some new information regarding Punta Piedra that I'll post later today or maybe tomorrow.

Mr. Cheyenne Morrison said...

Hey Anonymous, its easy to point the finger when you cant identify yourself, my guess is that you are involved with Private Islands Online.

I have one island listed as your point out in Costa Rica, and when prospective investors contact me I warn them of the issues of ownership by the government. That is called a duty of "due diligence".

Seem you are trying to trun an attack on yourself against me, wonder why? perhaps to deflect the criticism from yourself.

I think "anonymous" = coward

Mr. Cheyenne Morrison said...

Dear Uri, unlike "anonymous" I welcome you to contact me to discuss this issue.

I have nothing to hide or fear by my behaviour and dont need to hide behind anonymous comments.

Mr. Cheyenne Morrison - Owner
Coldwell Banker Morrison's Private Islands
International Private Islands Specialist
P.O. Box 478, Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia 4877
Email: private_islands(at)
Phone: +61-7-4099-5957
Cell: +61-439-757-966

Mr. Cheyenne Morrison said...

Caribbean islands illegally sold, Nicaragua says
CNN News
December 12, 2006

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Nicaragua is investigating the alleged illegal sale of its Caribbean islands on the Internet, the country's environmental prosecutor said Tuesday.

Lizandro D'Leon told The Associated Press that island real estate agents appear to have been selling the Caribbean islands for the past six years using royal titles issued by British colonizers under a 1905 treaty. D'Leon argues that a 1902 civil code dictates that the islands are now public land.

"No one has the right to sell them because they are in the public domain," he said.

He said he planned to ask authorities to check land registry documents in Bluefields, 170 miles east of the capital, Managua, in Nicaragua's autonomous region.

The government is also investigating the Toronto, Canada-based Private Islands Online and other similar companies.

Chris Krolow, the executive director of Private Islands Online, said the company doesn't sell islands but is simply a portal where island brokers and owners can advertise their property for rent or sale. He referred questions about specific properties to the listed owners or brokers.

The company's Web site lists several Nicaraguan islands for sale, including one called Pigeon Island, described as a 7.5-acre "island of rock, surrounded by the waters of the Caribbean, with agates and sea turtles too." Its listed price is $285,000.

In April 2001, Nicaragua's environmental prosecutor asked a judge to nullify the sale of seven islands to a Greek man. But in June 2001, a judge ruled against the government's request.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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