Dubai man thought contest launched April Fools’ Day was joke
Brendan Lopes has never been to Nova Scotia — or to Canada, for that matter.
But he’s now the proud owner of a private island off the coast of the province’s Eastern Shore thanks to a few lucky dice rolls.
The 27-year-old Lopes, a Portuguese national of Indian origin who grew up in the cultural melting pot of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, holds down two jobs.
He makes video content for businesses by day. At night, he is a DJ at clubs and private parties.
He has friends who love to visit Canada and he knows basic geography. But he admits he isn’t quite sure what the country has in store for him.
“[Another thing] I hear about Canada is like all of you guys say sorry a lot,” he said. “But, obviously, other than the stereotypes, I have no idea in the world about what Canada is, man. I have no idea.”
The 2.4-hectare island Lopes now owns is about 200 kilometres east of Halifax, off the coast of Goldboro, in Guysborough County. It’s called Hollpoint Island or Hurricane Island, and other than trees, rocks and sand, there’s not much else there.
It all started on April Fools’ Day. Lopes’s bank, UAE-based Liv. Bank, announced a contest to win a private island in Canada.
He thought it was a joke, until a few weeks later when he was chosen as a contestant.
In the end, it came down to Lopes and 18 others who got up on stage Oct. 14 at Caesars Palace in Dubai and rolled a die — labelled with -2, -1, 0, 1 and 2 — trying to be the first to get to six.
“And I’m probably the only one over there who was the most underdressed of anyone.… It’s, like, literally me … not shaved, hair unkempt,” he said.
“And I just went down there like, you know, maybe the food is going to be decent,” said Lopes.
But his girlfriend and father believed he could win.
After some nail-biting rolls, Lopes was in a position to take the final prize. All he needed to do was roll a two to get to the winning number.
“And I could actually see this happening in slow motion. Like, you throw the die and it hits the edge and it slowly goes down and it goes like zero, minus two, plus two. And I’m like what just happened?”
Stunned after the win, Brendan was approached by the MC of the game.
“And he’s like, ‘Brendan, man, people like Richard Branson have islands, you know, like millionaires have islands, and now you’re one of them. What do you have to say?’
Lopes, wearing a prop life-jacket along with the rest of the contestants, said the only thing that came to mind: “I’m thinking about the way to get a boat to get to the island.”
Jayesh Patel is head of Liv. Bank. Its target market is millennials.
He said the bank surveyed customers to find out what kind of prizes might interest them.
“Canada comes up always as the top three destinations for customers,” he said.
“And it’s a place that has islands which we could give away.”
Patel said Hurricane Island was particularly appealing because gold was discovered east of nearby Goldboro in the mid-1800s.
“We liked some of the facts associated with it because we also wanted it to be a story around the island itself.”
Last year, the bank gave away a Tesla.
In addition to the island, Lopes also gets a cash prize of 100,000 UAE diram, which is about $36,000 Cdn.
Lopes is waiting for the excitement to subside but said he’s considering using the prize money to start a shop in Dubai that serves biryani, an Indian mixed rice dish.
He said there’s still a lot of paperwork to complete to take possession of an island in a country he’s never visited but he’s looking forward to making the 20-plus-hour flight in the near future.
“I mean, I have an island now, so I definitely want to see it,” he said.
Though, Lopes added, he’s not thrilled at the prospect of paying property taxes, which don’t really exist in UAE.
According to the real estate site viewpoint.ca, the 2019 tax assessment for the island is $21,200, and it’s taxed at an annual rate of $129.
Patel said Liv. Bank bought the island through a Germany-based private island real estate company for about $50,000 Cdn.
Lopes said he’s been overwhelmed by the response from friends, the media and people he barely knows.
“But the headlines around Dubai are ‘Indian Portuguese DJ who still lives with parents doesn’t know what to do with island’. I’m like, you guys, you guys are really killing me over this,” said Lopes.