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Colombia reneges on treasure hunters who found $2 billion shipwreck

Section: Daily Dispatches

From Agence France-Presse
via Yahoo News
Friday, July 6, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's Supreme Court has ruled against US treasure hunters who claimed half of the estimated $2 billion in gold, silver, and emeralds aboard a Spanish galleon sunk in the Caribbean in 1708.

The court decision, released Friday, called excessive the claim filed by Sea Search Armada, which found the remains of the San Jose in 1982 off Cartagena after a search said to have cost $12 million.

The US company sued to demand compliance with a 1979 contract that gave it rights to half of whatever was recovered from the San Jose.

However, the court said the galleon was part of Colombia's historical heritage and "none of these goods may become private property."

In 1984 then-president of Colombia Belisario Betancourt offered to allow Sea Search Armada half of whatever was recovered.

The ship is located at a depth of 210 meters (690 feet) and was found using specialized ships and a submarine.

The San Jose was one of the largest cargo ships in the Spanish fleet. It sank June 7, 1708, near the Islas del Rosario, off Colombia's Caribbean coast, during combat with English ships attempting to take its cargo.

According to a Colombian shipwreck commission, the San Jose carried ingots of gold, silver, and emeralds, which a private company estimated were worth $2 billion.

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