The island of Budelli is famous for its beaches.
Italy plans to buy back an island off the coast of Sardinia just weeks after it was sold to a senior employee of the Commonwealth Bank.
The tiny island of Budelli, which is famous for its pink sandy beaches, was bought last month for €2.94 million ($4.34 million) by Michael Harte, who is the CBA's chief information officer.
BusinessDay reported this month that Mr Harte had recently secured a $3.56 million loan from the bank. In August the CBA reported annual earnings of $7.8 billion -the biggest-ever profit for an Australian bank.
Michael Harte, the CBA's chief information officer. Photo: Ian Waldie
When he bought the island Mr Harte, a 47-year-old New Zealander, said that he was a committed conservationist and would ensure that the island remained pristine, but on Monday the Italian government made a move to acquire the outcrop of granite back.
The Senate in Rome passed a special dispensation to allow the state to buy back the island, which is part of the Maddalena archipelago of islands between Sardinia and Corsica. The government now has until January 8 - 90 days after the island was sold at auction - to decide whether to claim Budelli back for its original asking price under a deal in which Mr Harte would be reimbursed.
"The island of Budelli could finally return to public ownership ... to our immense satisfaction," said a statement by a group of MPs from SEL, a Left-wing party, who had pushed for the island to be reclaimed. The MPs said they were determined to preserve "the natural assets that have earned Italy the accolade Il Bel Paese (the beautiful country)".
Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, a former environment minister who had collected 85,000 signatures for a petition opposing the sale of the island, said: "This is a first victory." Despite the controversy over the sale, there was little danger that the island would be spoiled. It came with strict planning regulations under which no new structures could be built, and Mr Harte, had said that he wanted to preserve its wild beauty.
"My first and most important objective is to preserve the ecology, so both the land-based and the marine-based flora and fauna," he said shortly after the purchase.
He also said he would allow day-trippers and yacht owners to continue to visit the speck of land, which had previously been owned by a property company in Milan that went bust.
The 170-hectare island is currently home to a few seabirds and a colony of rabbits. It is a short boat ride away from Sardinia's Costa Smeralda, where villas routinely sell for €18 million or more.