A sunken treasure worth tens of billions sure sounds like a dream.
However, that is now a reality about to be salvaged from the bottom of the Caribbean sea – but that is already causing waves in dry land, where an American company is suing the Colombian government.
The sunken Spanish warship that lay undiscovered at the bottom of the ocean for centuries is spurring a modern-day legal battle over who has the rights to its antique treasures.
Business Insider reported:
“The San José galleon, which sank off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, in 1708, contained ‘the biggest treasure in the history of humanity’, an October legal filing from the government of Colombia said.”
More than 300 years after the San José went down in flames, a US salvage company is suing the Colombian government for ‘half the ship’s treasures’, claiming that it discovered the wreck first, back in 1981.
“When the San José sank in a battle against the British in 1708, the ship was carrying what is believed to be the most expensive cargo ever shipped from the New World, including more than 7 million pesos, 116 steel chests full of emeralds, and 30 million gold coins, according to court documents.”
The US salvage company Sea Search Armada claims to have found debris from the San José wreck first, and handed over the coordinates of the discovered debris to the Colombian government.
Search Armada also claims that it had an agreement to receive ‘half the ship’s treasure’, according to the company’s December 2022 notice of arbitration.
The Colombian government disputed the company ‘s claims, saying that the ship wasn’t even at the coordinates handed over by the company.
“‘How can it be explained that a private company finds the biggest treasure in the history of humanity and fails to report it?’ attorneys for the government wrote in the October response. ‘The answer is simple: because it did not find it’.”
Colombia claims to have found it only in 2015, but the coordinates have never been made public, and deemed a state secret.
The south-American country now argues that the ship and its treasures are a national heritage item that will be kept in the country.
Sea Search Armada, for its part, alleges that the Colombian navy simply discovered parts of the same debris field it first found in 1981.
“The company is suing for $10 billion — which it says is equivalent to half the value of the ship’s treasures — under the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.”
Photos and videos of the ship debris show fine china, coins, and cannons littered across the ocean floor where the San José sank.
The mission to recover the old sunken ship has now been launched by the Colombian government.
New York Post reported:
“Colombian President Gustavo Petro ordered his administration to exhume the ‘Holy Grail of shipwrecks’ — the Spanish galleon San José — from the floor of the Caribbean Sea as soon as possible.”
Petro wants to bring ship to the surface before his term is up in 2026. He requested that a public-private partnership be formed to see it through, according to Minister of Culture Juan David Correa.
“’This is one of the priorities for the Petro administration’, [the Minister] said. ‘The president has told us to pick up the pace’.”
Built in 1698, the ship was the flagship of Spain’s treasure fleet and would routinely travel between Peru and Spain carrying gems and precious metals.