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Rags to Riches: Cash-Strapped Afghanistan Seals Deal on Sumptuous Swedish Estate

© Photo : Ankara / Saltsjö-Duvnäs. File photo
Saltsjö-Duvnäs. File photo - Sputnik International
Afghanistan, which has been recognized as one of the world's poorest countries, has bought one of Sweden's most expensive pieces of real estate. The Afghan embassy has coughed up nearly five million dollars for a luxury villa outside Stockholm, yet the move-in has been stopped by the municipality.

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Built in 1896, the chic Saltsjö Duvnäs villa, which boasts 15 rooms, 600 square meters and garage space for four cars, has been for sale for many years, effectively standing out as the country's most expensive property on offer. Recently, however, the seller, a US-registered Swedish businessman, has found a surprising buyer — the Afghan embassy in Stockholm.

According to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, the Afghan embassy, which is currently located in an office building in Sollentuna in Greater Stockholm, paid a total of 42 million SEK ($4.7mln) for the sumptuous house, which is nearly 10 million SEK more than a similar property located on the same street fetched at the beginning of March the same year. The sky-high price raised eyebrows across Sweden, as only four pieces of property brought in 2016 sold for more than 40 million, according to the Swedish National Land Survey.

Afghanistan has been recognized as one of the world's poorest countries and has been a perennial recipient of international aid, which constitutes 24 percent of the nation's GDP, according to the data from Openaid. Ironically, Sweden itself is a major contributor to the Afghan state coffers, having effectively donated 887 million SEK ($98mln) last year alone. A large part of it, 290 million SEK ($32mln), was spent on "unspecified" purposes.

However, the extravagant procurement risks becoming a total flop, as Nacka Municipality's area plan stipulates strict regulations on what the house can and cannot be used for. Transforming the property into an embassy is specifically prohibited. After complaints from residents of the area, who heard about the plans for the villa, a ban on conversion involving fines of up to half a million SEK was issued.

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According to the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Afghan Embassy has been inquiring about rules governing the use of real estate in Sweden. According to Sofia Karlberg of the Foreign Ministry's press service, the Embassy was informed that it did not need any special permission for the purchase. The question of how the house will be used was not discussed, however.

"We discussed the acquisition in general. Then it's up to brokers and sellers to provide information on the possible need for planning permission based on the individual situation," Sofia Karlberg said.


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