Spanish authorites said yesterday they had smashed an international crime ring allegedly selling false passports and other documents from an imaginary principality off the southern British coast. Spain's Civil Guard said more than 60 people were involved in selling passports, driving licences and university degrees from what they had baptised the Principality of Sealand, which is in fact an abandoned World War Two-era anti-aircraft platform seven miles (11 km) off the coast of Britain. The Civil Guard, confirming earlier media reports, said the documents were sold for nearly $3'000 apiece. Members of the gang have claimed diplomatic immunity, saying they were ambassadors, consuls or ministers of the government of Sealand, the Civil Guard said. The group operated two offices in the middle of Madrid claiming to be the “embassy” of Sealand. One of those offices doubled as administrative centre for a chain of Bingo parlours. Sealand is claimed by wealthy British businessman and World War Two veteran Roy Bates, who says it is an independent state. Bates denied any links to the ring in an interview with London's Sunday Telegraph and was reportedly angry to find that Sealand's name was being used in the scam. Britain allows Sealand to exist but does not recognise its sovereignty.


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