The minute principality of Pontinha is in a major pickle. Its ‘prince’ D. Renato (a former art teacher) was arrested by GNR police on Monday over the non-payment of a purported €200,000 debt.
The judicial order saw police officially close the “principality” – a chunk of rock on the Madeiran coast which 10 years ago ‘seceded’ from Portugal.
D. Renato was led from his kingdom in handcuffs – something he has claimed over social media to have been a “violation of international law”.
For now Renato has been released, pending legal procedures – in this case likely to be an appearance before magistrates.
D. Renato has been a colourful figure on the Funchal scene – occasionally giving interviews dressed as Henry the Navigator.
He purchased the ‘island’ of Pontinha in 2000 after selling all his worldly possessions and being labelled a madman, he told the UK’s Guardian, by family and friends.
Two years ago, the ‘micronation’ introduced the Bitcoin as its official currency.
In February this year, a local politician almost as wacky as the Prince himself told newspapers that he was putting in for asylum on the island, to avoid a one-year jail term imposed on him, to be served over 72 separate weekends.
It is not clear whether an arrangement was reached between the two men, but the politician – José Manuel Coelho – is still in active service and purportedly standing for mayor of the Madeiran borough of Santa Cruz, in the upcoming municipal elections.