07/24/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 09/22/2014 05:59 EDT

RCMP sells sleek plane for half of asking price

The RCMP is getting far less than its asking price at the online auction of a controversial Italian-made plane ordered by former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.

The Piaggio P180 Avanti luxury turboprop was listed for sale on the government of Canada's surplus website last spring with bids starting at $2.5 million.

A spokesperson at the department of Public Works tells CBC News it accepted a winning bid of $1.3 million for the Piaggio on July 17. The identity of the buyer is protected under the Privacy Act and the number of bids will not be released until the sale is formally closed.

The RCMP paid more than $8 million for the nine-seater executive aircraft when it bought the plane in 2002. At the time, many viewed the plane as a vanity purchase. Zaccardelli hand-picked the spiffy-looking turboprop aircraft.

Niche market

A source in Canada's aviation industry, who did not want to be identified, calls the P180 a niche aircraft, "You've really got to want an Avanti. The market is very limited," he said. 

He added that the aircraft is not very desirable because it has a short range of roughly 1,500 kilometres and is noisy. Even so, he said, someone got a deal, because according to the plane's age, history and specifications, it should have sold for around $2 million.

The RCMP retired the Piaggio on April 1, 2014, as part of its efforts to cut costs. A spokesperson for the Mounties told CBC News the decision was made after "an evaluation of maintenance costs and operational requirements."