If you had a chance to recover NZ$33 billion of treasure, you’d probably want to do it ASAP.
So, it’s no surprise Colombia’s president has ordered an accelerated recovery of a 300-year-old sunken ship that could hold billions of dollars of valuable goods.
Considered the “Holy grail of shipwrecks”, ownership of the Spanish galleon San José has been greatly contested.
Last week, Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro called for his administration to dig up the sunken wreck from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea immediately, Bloomberg reported. Or, at least before his term ends in 2026.
President Petro also wants to form a public-private partnership to oversee the process, said Minister of Culture Juan David Correa to the New York Post.
“This is one of the priorities for the Petro administration,” he said. “The president has told us to pick up the pace.”
Unsurprisingly, several individuals are battling over who technically owns the valuable ship, which allegedly could hold between $6.7 billion and $33.3 billion worth of gold, silver and emeralds.
According to the lawsuit, there are questions over who actually found it, and thus, is entitled to the loot.
The ship called the San José Galleon, sank in 1708 with 600 crew members and many treasures on board. This was during a battle against the British in the war and remained 600 metres below the ocean for centuries.
It wasn’t until 1981 that it was allegedly discovered by a US company called Glocca Morra. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Colombia claimed they would give 50 per cent of the fortune to the company in return for the coordinates.
Jump forward 34 years, to 2015 and the deal turned ugly when Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, who was president at the time, claimed the ship had actually been discovered somewhere else, meaning they were entitled to the full bounty.
Today, Glocca Morra continues to be tied up in a legal flight after suing the Colombian government for half the treasure, Bloomberg reports.
Minister of Culture, Correa, claims Colombia is in the right, telling the outlet that government researchers went to the coordinates offered by the US company and “concluded that there is no shipwreck there”.
What exactly will they find?
As is the case with a lot of sunken treasure no one can say for sure what will be on board the galleon until it resurfaces.
Some experts speculate the Spanish gallion could have up to 11 million gold coins, each weighing 27 grams, 92 per cent of which is gold.
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