‘Holy Grail of Shipwrecks’ to be Exhumed Off Colombia with $20B Sunken Treasure

‘Holy Grail of Shipwrecks’ to be Exhumed Off Colombia with $20B Sunken Treasure

Colombia is fervently pursuing the retrieval of a centuries-old sunken treasure, often dubbed the ‘holy grail of shipwrecks,’ estimated to be valued at a staggering $20 billion. However, the ownership of this immense fortune remains entangled in a legal quagmire, a matter caught in the throes of an ongoing court battle.

President Gustavo Petro has issued a directive to his administration to expedite the recovery of the renowned Spanish galleon San José, resting on the bed of the Caribbean Sea.

The mission is aimed to be completed before Petro’s term concludes in 2026. To achieve this, the President has advocated for the formation of a public-private partnership to ensure the success of this ambitious undertaking, as revealed by Minister of Culture Juan David Correa in a conversation with Bloomberg.

“This is one of the priorities for the Petro administration,” Correa emphasized. “The president has told us to pick up the pace.”

However, the treasure’s ownership remains shrouded in mystery, entailing a vast assemblage of gold, silver, and emeralds valued between $4 billion and a staggering $20 billion, subject to varying estimations within the lawsuit.

The pivotal crux of the matter seems to revolve around the conflicting claims regarding the entity believed to have discovered the treasure. The San José galleon, carrying a crew of 600, sank to a depth of about 2,000 feet on June 8, 1708, during a clash with the British in the War of the Spanish Succession. For years, its whereabouts remained an enigmatic legend due to its elusive location.

However, in 1981, a US company known as Glocca Morra asserted it had unearthed the lost treasure and purportedly handed over the coordinates to Colombia, under the stipulation that it would be entitled to half of the treasure’s value upon its recovery.

Subsequently, in 2015, Colombia’s then-President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the country’s navy had identified the San José wreck at a different location on the seabed.

While Colombia has not disclosed the exact coordinates of the ship’s final resting place, Glocca Morra, now rebranded as Sea Search Armada, claims that the Colombian government stumbled upon a portion of the same debris field in 2015 that the company initially discovered 34 years prior.

In response to this dispute, the company has taken legal action against the Colombian government, seeking half of the treasure’s estimated value—$10 billion—as per the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, reported Bloomberg.

Contrarily, Correa asserted to the outlet that the government’s researchers investigated the coordinates provided by Sea Search Armada and “concluded that there is no shipwreck there.” The conflicting claims and the legal battle that ensues are further complicating the fervent efforts to salvage this historical treasure trove.


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